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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

Holy Cross valedictorian Stephen McNulty reflects on experience

The path to Holy Cross College valedictorian for Stephen McNulty has been a non-traditional one.

McNulty, who hails from Scranton, Pennsylvania, attended King’s College, a Catholic liberal arts college near home, for his freshman year, studying computer science and computer engineering. After the pandemic, though, which McNulty said "changed everything," he transferred to Holy Cross for his sophomore year.

McNulty said he chose Holy Cross after hearing about it from a priest at King’s College who was a graduate of Holy Cross College. McNulty then applied to the Old College seminary at Notre Dame, but after being deferred for a year, decided to enroll at Holy Cross.

At Holy Cross, McNulty’s educational journey took another turn as he decided to major in theology, a dramatic change from his background in STEM.

“What drew me was just the richness of the intellectual tradition of the Catholic faith. It was just endless,” McNulty explained. “I started taking some theology courses and I just felt God really calling me to study it a little bit deeper.”

Also integral in his decision to major in theology was his decision to take a political philosophy class during his sophomore year at Holy Cross. McNulty said the class introduced him to the idea of education being more than a means to an end, but an end in itself.

“In political philosophy, all these thinkers were talking about education as good in itself that we educate ourselves just for the fulfillment of education,” McNulty said. “That really changed my mind on education as a whole and I think that led me to study theology.”

In addition to majoring in theology, McNulty also chose to minor in business which has always been an interest of his.

“I've always had a kind of a business mind since I was a kid. And so I've always wanted to keep that and further that education,” McNulty said.

McNulty emphasized that while Holy Cross might not be the biggest school or have as advanced facilities as Notre Dame, it provides a sense of community that no other school can provide. 

“If you walk across Holy Cross’s campus, do we have the biggest library now? No. Do we have the nicest stadium like Notre Dame? No,” McNulty acknowledged. “But, I think what Holy Cross has is the people here. Such humble, down-to-earth, friendly people that really care about you.”

This sense of community has been McNulty’s favorite part of the Holy Cross experience, he explained.

McNulty added that Holy Cross’ size introduces “a lot of opportunities being a small campus that you don't get in many other places.”

After a long four-year journey, McNulty stressed how grateful and humbled he feels to be given the honor of valedictorian.

“When you achieve a great honor like this, it really humbles you because it makes you realize that it's not you. Yes, I might be receiving this award, but there's a whole group of people that have led the way to get [me] to where I am,” he said. 

McNulty specifically thanked his parents and the great teachers he has had for enabling his success at Holy Cross.

“All my professors have been really incredible in allowing the mind to really do its work and dive into subjects and just go 100% at it … and to ponder the great questions of life,” he stressed.

Since graduating in December, McNulty has been working full-time doing Catholic financial planning for the Knights of Columbus which he says has allowed him to combine his interests in theology and business. At the Knights of Columbus, McNulty works with Catholic families to assess their financial situations and consult them on planning for retirement, getting out of debt, and growing their wealth to help society.

“It’s kind of a match made in heaven,” McNulty quipped.

McNulty plans to continue working for the Knights of Columbus for the foreseeable future.

McNulty will speak at Holy Cross’ commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20. While he explained that there is “not exactly a rubric that you can easily follow for this kind of speech,” he emphasized that he hopes to celebrate the accomplishments of the class and leave the audience with something meaningful to think about as they go into the next chapter of their lives.