University honors 2012 Parents of the Year
Mary Jo and Greg Donnelly of Lakeside Park, Ky., received the 2012 Parent of the Year Award on Oct. 20. Their daughter Tiffany, a first-year student at the Brandeis School of Law, nominated them.
The award, now in its fifth year, is designed to let students recognize their parents for the help and support they've given throughout the students' lives. Students nominate their parents by letter during the fall semester.
In her letter, Tiffany said her parents are “the most selfless human beings I have ever known. My parents have shown by example how to be kind to others and how to live with integrity. They have sacrificed their personal desires, interests, and financial gains to give me a life better than their own.”
She wrote that her parents came to her aid this summer when she had to leave her job in New York City to have surgery in Kentucky before starting law school. They moved her back into her childhood home at the same time her grandmother, who has dementia and Parkinson's disease, also lived with them and required their around-the-clock attention.
“What makes them special is that they go out of their way to help anybody,” Tiffany said last week. “When people are struggling, my parents do what they can to be of service. That’s a powerful message to have grown up with.”
Mary Jo said she was surprised to receive the award, noting that it’s her daughter who is the real “gem.” She and her husband thought they were coming to the ceremony simply because they had been among the many parents who were nominated. She didn’t realize that her daughter had written the winning letter until midway through.
“You already feel like a winner because your kid took the time to nominate you,” Mary Jo said. “It was just such an honor to be there.”
There were 48 parent nominees for the award this year; 29 participated in the awards ceremony during Homecoming at Damon’s Grill in the Swain Student Activities Center.
During the ceremony, Michael Mardis, dean of students, welcomed and recognized each of the parents.
In thanking the parents for committing themselves to their sons and daughters and for showing support for their decision to attend UofL, Mardis said that the Parent of the Year award reception is one of his favorite events of the year.
"Parents, each of you are the foundation. You are the ones who build them up," Mardis said.
Before recognizing the parents, Mardis read selections from some of the nomination letters, which perhaps were the first time students publicly stated how they love and appreciate their parents. The letters included such comments as:
My parents have shown by example how to be kind to others and to live with integrity.
My parents are immigrants and left everything so that my sister and I can have a life full of opportunity, freedom and everything they didn't have when they were growing up.
My mom fostered my passion and interests, allowing me to discover my own path; giving me the freedoms she did not have as a child.
My mom has gone from a tolerant mom of a gay son to accepting her son and his community
My parents have made so many sacrifices for me throughout my life, but those made to help me attend the University of Louisville are by far the most selfless and meaningful.
I have very few favorite memories that don't include her, could not have made it to this point in my education without her, and cannot picture my life apart from her.
She is endlessly supportive, the best listener, advice giver, shoulder to cry on, and Diet Coke provider.
My mother has been nothing less than heroic from the beginning.
“When reading all the submitted essays, a common theme is the how giving and loving these parents are,” Mardis said. “These parents are selfless passing on love, knowledge and trust that shapes their children and impacts many others.”