Loyola Magazine

Faith in Messina

Donors enthusiastically support Loyola's first-year experience

When Marie Boylan and Jeff Freedman heard about Loyola’s Alpha Program at Loyola’s Orientation for new students, they knew it was a perfect fit for their daughter, Katie, ’14.

They were delighted that she chose the program, which matched her and other first-year students with experienced faculty in small, seminar-style classes.

“We didn’t have that kind of thing when we were in college,” Boylan said. “You either sank or swam. That was fine because I was a swimmer, but not every student is.”

Boylan recognized the value of the program, especially since she had seen how her son benefited from joining a small group wilderness program during college, and she saw how the Alpha Program helped Katie with the transition to college, matching her with the perfect advisor to guide her through the first years at Loyola.

“I was very pleased with the whole concept of small group learning. And, I thought it would be a benefit for all students. I find it useful for each student to be a part of a small group comprised of students whom they might not self-select, nor get to know otherwise. Also, access to two academic advisors whom first-year students get to know more closely throughout the year is a huge benefit,” Boylan said. “Small group learning allows students to get beyond the surface and get to know peers and mentors on a whole new level.”

When Boylan, who is a member of the Loyola College Board of Advisors, heard that Loyola was drawing from the best of the Alpha Program and expanding and enhancing the idea to create a living learning program called Messina, she wanted to learn more. The more she heard, the more she realized that she wanted to support the program financially.

“If students have an interest in a subject of study and can develop friends with that same interest, I just think it serves them so well,” said Boylan, who lives in San Francisco. “They have an experience when they’re all new and finding their way. It’s a smaller place to call home, and they know that there is someone on the campus who cares about them—even if it is their advisor.”

Amy Wallack hadn’t even visited the Loyola campus when she heard about the plans for what would become Messina. But she knew she wanted to support it.

From the first time she heard that the University was planning to create a living learning program, she thought of how she would have benefited from that experience when she was an undergrad at Georgetown University.

“You go into school starting a new and exciting chapter of your life, and you think you know what you’re getting into,” she said. “You experience several transitions that you need to work through. This offers a balance between education and student life, making you more complete, more comfortable.”

Wallack, a resident of Stamford, Conn., who works on a wealth management team at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., first heard about Messina from her former Georgetown University professor, Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs at Loyola.

“I knew that was something that would help each and every student,” said Wallack, who visited the Evergreen campus for the first time in July. “Loyola is very good at supporting their community. I’m learning that at Loyola things are more personal, and it makes for a better college experience.”

As the plans for the program came together, Wallack was interested in how thoroughly Messina integrated academics with other college experiences, along with the support students would receive as they transitioned to college.

Wallack works with clients who plan to become more philanthropic to organizations and initiatives during their retirement years. The mother of an 8-year-old didn’t want to wait to make an impact with a gift.

“I’m really interested in giving to endeavors that I believe in, seeing them develop, and be implemented as intended,” she said.

“You find a lot of people do things later in life, but would like to do it now. I got excited when I heard about this idea, and if it works, the donors and the University and student body will all benefit for years to come. Maybe my daughter will attend Loyola herself in 10 years.”

Now Wallack, Boylan, and Freedman—and the other donors supporting Messina—are looking forward to seeing how the program enhances the student experience.

“It’s good to see it come to life,” Wallack said.