As the former vice president of the Alumni Association board of directors, and with over 20 semesters of volunteerism to his credit, Evans “Chip” Connelly ’84 is dedicated to his alma mater. Connelly, a former football player at St. Thomas, is an integral part of the Student-Alumni Mentoring (SAM) program, and he donates $70 per Tommie touchdown in honor of his jersey number to the program.

Sponsored by the Student Alumni Council and the alumni board of directors, SAM helps St. Thomas undergraduate students in their professional growth by assigning them alumni mentors who work in their prospective fields. The program has been assisting students for more than two decades, and Connelly has helped many of his mentees attain professional positions and internships.

“I chose to give my time and to become a mentor, because I felt then (as I do now), there was a significant opportunity to create a win-win for both the student and alumni,” Connelly said. Now in his 13th year of mentoring, he says he pushes students to be “different,” and echoing his “win-win” sentiment, commended St. Thomas and SAM: “The students are great and I really enjoy being part of such a great institution.”

Senior Olivia DeMeuse described Connelly as helpful, genuinely interested in the students with whom he works and well-connected in the professional world.

“The first time we met, he was prepared with other connections I could contact that helped prepare me for my summer internship,” DeMeuse said.

Sarah Hendricks ’13 seconded DeMeuse’s opinion, adding that, “you get out of something what you put into it,” a lesson she learned from her experience working with Connelly.

Hendricks works in merchandise planning for Target Corp. and said that, although SAM is technically a one-year program, she has remained in contact with Connelly, a testament to his investment in SAM and the students he mentors. Reminiscing on the lessons she learned, she said, “Someone once told me that having a mentor is important, because ‘nothing great is ever accomplished alone.’ And looking back at the last five years of my life especially, I believe this statement to be true. While Chip did not get my job for me at Target, the lessons I learned while having him as a mentor did.”

Strong mentorships, such as the ones established by Connelly, are a valuable opportunity at St. Thomas, and they allow both students and alumni to further the university’s mission of “educating students to become morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.”

St. Thomas undergraduates and alumni interested in taking part in SAM can sign up for free at www.alumni.stthomas.edu/SAM. Registration for the 2015-16 school year is available through Sept. 30.

Hendricks concluded her fond recollection of her time with SAM and Connelly by saying, “Looking back at my time at UST, being part of SAM was one of the most beneficial experiences throughout my college career, and I am very excited for those of you who start this journey.”

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