Prospect Magazine: Alumni Stories

I Invested My Severance Pay

Donna Curin BS ’96, MA ’02
Assistant Vice President to the President & Chairman,
Loyola University of Chicago

I completed two years of college at Loyola University Chicago before getting married and having children. For 14 years, I worked part time at a publishing firm in Oak Brook. It was not really a career, but I had wonderful benefits and I saw myself working there all my life. Then the firm was sold, and the staff was reduced by 50 percent.

At that point, the youngest of my four children was in school, so I was ready to work full time. McDonald’s corporate office was interviewing for temporary workers, and I was hired. But my skills from working in publishing were not transferable. That resulted in a cut in pay, and I was starting at the bottom.

I promised myself that would never happen to me again. I knew the education piece was critical, so I invested my severance pay in completing my education. I started at Elmhurst College two months after I began working at McDonald’s.

My education went quickly, and I was able to graduate with honors in 18 months with a degree in business administration. By that time, I realized that I love school, so I kept going and earned a master’s degree in professional writing.

My career at McDonald’s moved quickly as well. I started as a temporary worker. Three years later I was the executive assistant to Michael Quinlan, the chairman and ceo. Six years after that, I was a communications manager, specializing in executive communication and speechwriting. Mr. Quinlan was the chairman of the board of trustees of Loyola University Chicago. When Loyola had an opening in the president’s office, he recommended me. I never thought I’d leave McDonald’s, but as I discovered during my years at Elmhurst, I love the academic environment. I have a terrific job with a lot of variety working with interesting people in an organization, like Elmhurst, that has a rich mission of serving students.

I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am today without my Elmhurst degrees. Going back to school gave me more than a degree—it also gave me confidence that I could do what it takes.

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