Grad Stories ’18: A Born Leader (With a Little Help From SAU)


Matthew Mahoney swears he didn't turn 40 on the day he was born.

But if you were to poll the St. Ambrose campus community on that question, you might encounter at least a few skeptics.

Allegedly a 22-year-old senior from Waterloo, Iowa, Mahoney will graduate Saturday, May 12, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Theology and a résumé filled with highly demanding student activity positions and uniquely Ambrosian accomplishments.

OK. He may not have been born 40.

But a born leader? Most definitely.

"He has been eager almost from day one," said Tim Phillips, PhD, St. Ambrose Dean of Students with whom Mahoney consulted mere days into his first year at SAU regarding ways he might maximize his student experience. "In his first Student Government Association (SGA) meeting as a freshman, Matt said ‘I want to get things done.'''

And, of course, he has.

Senior Matt Mahoney

A Born Leader

In addition to SGA and CAB, Matt is a chemistry tutor, orientation leader, executive treasurer for Phi Eta Sigma, member of the senior leadership team, lector and Antioch Retreat leader, and member of Beta Beta Beta.

In various roles on the SGA board, Matt has led or played prominent roles in:

  • an SGA initiative that will remove coin-operated machines from Residence Hall laundry rooms and fold the cost in room and board fees; 
  • the creation of CommUNITY Day, an SAU Campus Ministry partnership with Quad City Bank and Trust that recruits students to conduct spring yard clean-up work for neighbors living south of Locust Street;
  • and advocated a bill to the Iowa Legislature that would encourage under-aged students who have overused alcohol to see seek medical assistance without fear of arrest.

He achieved his proudest accomplishment just days before graduation. Creating the Fr. Joe DeFrancisco Interfaith Prayer Space became a senior project of sorts after the beloved Fr. Joe, a longtime professor of Theology, died in the summer of 2017.

Introduced on Tuesday, May 8, the prayer space grew from something Mahoney overheard at a meeting hosted by Fr. Joe just months prior to his death. When the Catholic priest mentioned that students of non-Catholic faiths lacked adequate space for the daily prayers, Mahoney took note.

After Fr. Joe's death, Mahoney went into action, prodding campus leadership through his role as SGA president and enlisting his well-earned reputation as a young man who gets results.

"The Prayer Space is probably my biggest thing," he said. "I'm really proud of that. It's kind of uniquely Ambrosian: Embracing students of other faiths. That's definitely part of who we are."

"I just love being busy, being involved and changing things. Kind of a 'fix it' attitude."

Matt Mahoney '18

And making the absolute most of his St. Ambrose experience is definitely part of who Matt Mahoney is.

"I just love being busy, being involved and changing things," said Mahoney, who has exchanged email with virtually every SAU vice president, dean and department head at least once in his time at SAU. "Kind of ‘fix it' attitude."

Mahoney especially enjoyed interacting with members of the Board of Trustees as SGA president. Monthly breakfasts with Sister Joan also will be valued memories, even if they meant getting up before sunrise after overseeing a function the night before in his role as Nightlife Chair for the Campus Activity Board (CAB).

Phillips said leadership roles in the SGA and CAB rarely are undertaken by the same person. "Those are very demanding campus roles," said the dean.

But Mahoney can handle demanding. In addition to his SGA and CAB responsibilities, he has been a chemistry tutor, orientation leader, executive treasurer for the Phi Eta Sigma honor chapter, member of the senior leadership team, lector and Antioch Retreat leader for Campus Ministry, and member of the Beta Beta Beta Biology Honor Society.

Mahoney next will attend medical school, and wherever life leads, he will carry St. Ambrose with him.

"I've learned so much here from all the opportunities," he said. "From great leaders such as Sister Joan, Tim, Jason Richter. The faculty, the staff. My peers, too. They have helped me grow so much."

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