Meet the Sisters

Author: Sarah Cahalan '14

For our Summer 2019 cover story on Notre Dame women, "A Sisterhood of Sorts," associate editor Sarah Cahalan interviewed nearly 30 Irish alumnae. These women — ranging from the Class of 1974 to the Class of 2015 — are mothers, professionals, retirees, scholars and more. Each of them had remarkable stories to tell about their challenges and their joys, but only a few could fit into our article. In the list below, you'll hear a bit of each of those stories, in their tellers' own words.


  • Rosemary Abowd Schwendler '81

    Then: Studied finance as the fourth of her siblings (but first girl) to go to Notre Dame
    Now: Mother and senior market analyst at PMA Research

    "My home office was a beta test site for both Microsoft's first general-audience email services and TimeWarner Cable's first at-home internet services. All of this sounds so trivial now — it wasn't in the early 1990s. But I knew there was something in all this technology that would eventually help level the playing field. As you know now, I was right."

  • Kara (Altworth) O'Malley '04, '06M.A.

    Then: Earned degrees in business and theology at Notre Dame
    Now: Stay-at-home adoptive mother of two

    "I don't think anyone can 'have it all' on this side of heaven. I do think the closest we can get to it is by living a life of great love, and setting priorities and making decisions out of love. Sometimes, we must choose one good thing, and let another one go in doing so."

  • Ana Bermudez '06

    Then: Studied finance at Notre Dame
    Now: Tech company founder and CEO

    "Many members of my family regularly communicate their concern about my choice to be child-free. I respond to their concern by communicating that as a woman and CEO in tech, I have the freedom to actively create professional opportunities for other women and people of color."

  • Nicole Brooks '14

    Then: Studied English and computer science at Notre Dame
    Now: Software developer

    "People who want kids, I think, see the work involved with having kids as worth it. But, to me, I look at that mountain of laundry, prep before doing anything, family-friendly requirements, time constraints, financial input, on and on . . . and I'm just thinking, 'How could anyone do all this on top of everything else a functional human being has to do?!'"

  • Alex Brown '14

    Then: Studied science business at Notre Dame
    Now: Rising second-year medical student

    “It was during a gender studies class at ND that I made the connection that I was willing to make compromises for my future family not because I wanted to, but because I thought it was expected of me as a woman . . . Women shouldn’t feel that we are expected to make sacrifices without question.”

  • Katrina (Corcoran) Harrington '11

    Then: Studied economics at Notre Dame
    Now: Mother of four and owner of religious print shop Rose Harrington Art

    "I remember when I was dating my husband, and our trajectory towards marriage was obvious to anyone who saw us, a well-meaning friend warned me I was losing sight of my goals. I sat on my bed baffled. When did finding the good man that would help my soul get to heaven become a cringe-worthy event?"

  • Betsy Cornwell Lyons '12MFA

    Then: Earned her MFA in creative writing at Notre Dame
    Now: Bestselling author and single mom living in western Ireland

    "I have my book covers framed in the hallway of the small house I rent, and when my two-year-old goes past them he points and says 'mommy book.' That makes me really happy. I'm glad I can model following your dreams to my kid."

  • Molly (Daily) Cruitt '14

    Then: Studied political science and Spanish at Notre Dame
    Now: Newlywed and higher-ed communications specialist

    "I've been told over and over again that there's no right time to have kids, and if I wait until I feel totally ready, we'll never have them. But being married to someone who wants to be an academic means that, until he's got a full-time job as a professor, I've got to choose between being a mother and having a professional career. And while I want very badly to be a mom, I also want to have a successful professional life."

  • Cindy (Elshoff) Lupica '80

    Then: Studied government and international studies at Notre Dame
    Now: Lawyer and mother of three Notre Dame graduates

    "I never wanted my kids to be known as the children of a working mom who did not have enough time for them. Other than the fact that I was generally dressed for work, no one would have known that I was a working mom."

  • Anna (Fish) Palcic '14

    Then: Studied psychology at Notre Dame
    Now: Stay-at-home mother of two

    "Parenthood comes with incredible demands and necessitates great personal growth. There is no break from the worry, the responsibility and the sacrifices we are called to make for our children. Yet I have never experienced anything as fulfilling and joyous as watching a child develop into their own person and knowing that you are responsible for the formation of their mind, heart and soul as they flourish under your care."

  • Veronica (Flores) Alonzo '97

    Then: Studied pre-health at Notre Dame
    Now: Adoptive mom, stepmom, and associate superintendent of operations for Dallas Catholic Schools

    "I always wanted to be a mom, but I wanted at least five kids, so it really hurt when I couldn't conceive. But I've been blessed in other ways. My stepdaughter is married and has four children, so at 43 I am an 'abuelita' and am very happy when they come over because it does feel like I have five kids: My son (11) and the grandkids (9, 7, 4 and 2)."

  • Patricia (Hanlon) Rist '01

    Then: Studied biology and theology at Notre Dame
    Now: Dentist and mother of two

    "There are times that I wish I started to have children earlier [than age 33], and perhaps had another child. But I usually feel the personal sacrifices involved in entering a profession I love were worth it."

  • Katherine (Jones) Masterton '13

    Then: Studied pre-health and English at Notre Dame
    Now: Doctorate of Nursing Practice candidate and mother of Lucy, age two

    "Lucy demands everything of me all of the time. She doesn't understand that I've been awake for 24 hours or that it's finals week: She needs me to read this book, now. It encourages me to put my best foot forward at all times."

  • Kathy (Kennedy) Anders '74

    Then: Studied government and international studies at Notre Dame
    Now: Mother of two adult children and retired professor

    "In terms of a career, [my life] was more serendipitous than thought-out. Yet I have few regrets regarding balancing family and career. Overall, it has been, and still is, a fine life."

  • Lex Lorenzo '14

    Then: Studied sociology at Notre Dame
    Now: Lawyer and mother to newborn twin sons

    "[My twins required] me to be inpatient in a hospital for two months and then [in a NICU with them] for around two months. My focus is solely on this. I could be tough on myself that I'm not currently 'having it all,' but it's physically impossible for me to do so. Why be hard on yourself?"

  • Maria Martellaro '12

    Then: Studied classics and medieval studies at Notre Dame
    Now: Educational assistant

    "Although I thought I'd have kids by now, that also would have meant hours with friends I wouldn't have had free, trips I couldn't have taken, money I wouldn't have been able to spend as I chose. While I feel like I'll miss out if I never have kids, for now I'm okay with the fact that I haven't yet."

  • Nikki McCord '03

    Then: Studied political science at Notre Dame
    Now: Small business owner

    "One of the things which happened to me, which I think happens to a lot of women, is the question, 'Well, are you going to have kids?' I would say I'm not, [and people would say,] 'Oh, well, you'll change your mind.' I had a doctor tell me that once. So I changed doctors. If you're going to be treating me, then you need to respect the choices that I make." 

  • Emily Mediate '15

    Then: Studied pre-health and earned a Rhodes scholarship while at Notre Dame
    Now: Director of presidential affairs at Planned Parenthood; engaged to fiancée Andrea

    "Luckily, my friends and family have been very supportive [of my desire to have a family with Andrea], albeit confused about 'how it will work' or 'who will be the dad.' I realize that it will be a lot of explaining, but I'm not worried about rejection or being treated negatively for having a family with my partner."

  • Then: Studied psychology at Notre Dame, where she also met her husband while working together at South Dining Hall
    Now: Social worker and mom

    "Coming from my low-middle-class background, the question wasn't 'Can we have it all?' but rather 'Can we have SOME of it? Even just a bit?' For me, 'having it all' means having economic stability, healthy relationships, career opportunities and lifestyle choices. I finally got to the point that I could say, yes, I have those things. However, I take nothing for granted."

  • Sheila (Pfister) Padden '78

    Then: Studied business at Notre Dame
    Now: Mother and certified financial planner

    "I think women can 'have it all,' but not necessarily all at the same time. There is time for all seasons, and that should be relished and appreciated."

  • Michelle (Renaldo) Ferguson '80

    Then: Studied business at Notre Dame
    Now: Retiree and mother of two adult sons

    "I recall getting a request from a boss, whose wife did not work, to handle a time-sensitive issue [by working late]. He sat there as I made the various arrangements for pick-up, drop-off, dinner, whatever, and then said something to the effect of, 'Wow, it's much harder for you to work late.'"

  • Kaitlin (Robinson) Lalor '11

    Then: Studied sociology at Notre Dame
    Now: Recently made the switch to stay-at-home parenting after seven years at Gallo Winery

    "It's very hard for me to feel productive or accomplished at the end of the day, because most of what I do on a daily basis can seem trivial. [But my husband, John '11,] reminds me that childcare is a full-time job, whether I'm doing it or we're paying someone else to do it."

  • Ashley Shannon '96, '99M.A.

    Then: Earned two English degrees at Notre Dame
    Now: Chair of the English department at Grand Valley State University

    "I suspect that my parents would have been thrilled if I had had kids, but they have never pressured me. My mother did mention one time that one of my aunts 'didn't think she wanted to be a mother until she had children,' and I remember saying, 'Well, that seems like a risky plan! What if she'd been right?'"

  • Sarah Sobczak Hutchinson '06

    Then: Studied English and Gender Studies at Notre Dame
    Now: Stay-at-home mother of three

    “I do feel like a cliché — a well-educated woman has children, moves to the suburbs, and quits her job — but I can’t get sucked into this. All I can do is grow where I’ve been planted.”

  • Jeanine Sterling '76

    Then: Studied English at Notre Dame, where she was one of the first class of female freshmen
    Now: Research analyst and mother of two grown sons

    “Back [in the ‘80s], if you had a child, you really did not talk about him or her at work. My manager had an infant, came back in six weeks, and then spent the ensuing years referring to her child as ‘the package.’ As in: ‘I have to leave this 5 PM meeting early in order to pick up a package before the store’ — daycare — ‘closes.’”

  • Kathy (Walker) Beenen '77

    Then: Studied mechanical engineering as one of Notre Dame's first female engineers
    Now: Retiree and mother of two grown sons

    "Going from being a star student, Pantherette and emerging homemaker to an engineering student at Notre Dame was a leap! And that is one of the aspects of Notre Dame that was so appealing — I knew I was signing up to be a pioneer as one of the early women undergrads, and then as an engineer. The University and the department had high expectations and hopes for each of us."

  • Rebekah Wierson '13

    Then: Studied architecture at Notre Dame
    Now: Project manager for an architecture and engineering firm

    "While a fourth-year, my classmates and I started to have more serious conversations about who we would work for and what firms we had been researching. When it was time for me to share, a male classmate said, 'Oh, we know that you're just here for your MRS degree.' That was shocking, but in the moment I shrugged it off. Yet over time that would be the moment [that would make me] tell myself, 'I'll show them my MRS degree."