Kathleen (Whalen) Van De Loo
Class of 1987
Major: Journalism and Mass Communication
I was a business major until Professor Brill called me into his office early in the first semester of my sophomore year and said, "Kathy, what are you doing in my accounting class? You look miserable."
I told him I saw myself as a business owner someday and thought I better be a business major if I planned on running my own company.
"What do you enjoy doing?" he asked.
"Writing. I've always loved to write," I told him.
Professor Brill instructed me to leave his office immediately, walk across the hall to the Communications Department and start studying what I enjoy. He walked with me that day, right into the dean's office. I changed majors and started on a path I hadn't planned for.
I left St. Bonaventure proud of my major and the opportunities it presented only to be stunned when my first job interview was for writing obituaries for a small, local newspaper for $11,000 a year. My business major friends had secured jobs at Procter & Gamble, top-five accounting firms, and other notable businesses in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. I wondered if I had made the right decision. I wasn't so sure Professor Brill had given me the right advice.
As a result of an internship my senior year with then-Congressman Stan Lundine, I had taken an interest in political communications. Discouraged by the job opportunities presented in the Buffalo area and uncertain about how to use my communications degree, I hopped in the car two months after graduation and moved to Albany. Finally, a place to use my skills. A fit.
I was 21, and arrived on a political scene I was not completely prepared for. One of Albany's most distinguished law firms took a chance on me and I knew it was a make-it-or-break-it time in my career. I worked in the firm's government relations department as their communications director. The hours were long. The expectations were high. Things moved at rapid speed, yet required time and consideration. Not the Bona college atmosphere I was used to. I was eager to learn, and soon discovered that my communications skills and passion for the job were enough to allow me to significantly contribute to the firm - even though many days I was finding my way through.
Five-and-a-half years after I started my first job; I was recruited by one of Albany's top five government relations firms to help them serve their professional trade association clients. My communications work, government relations and community involvement also led to doing some political campaign work - a whole new experience in communications and organizational management.
Life intervened. Marriage, a baby. New responsibilities and a new kind of passion for life and motherhood that caused me to rethink everything. I was only 30 years old. I knew I would work again, but couldn't image going back to a schedule that wasn't my own.
I was home when the phone rang, baby in my arms. It was a client. They were in negotiations with my boss for their contract for next year and wondered if I would consider working for them independently. It was Professor Brill walking me across the hall all over again. I met with the senior partner and disclosed the conversation. His response: "Go for it."
While the baby napped, I completed incorporation papers and developed a business plan for the next phase of my career – business owner. I jumped and hoped the parachute would open. I knew the passion for my work would yield positive results and it was okay that I didn't know exactly what that looked like when I landed.
The Association Development Group, Inc. (ADG), www.adgcommunications.com, was formed in 1996 and incorporated in 1997 - 10 years after college graduation. In many ways, the building blocks for the company began my sophomore year. ADG is now 14 years old, three incredible children later, and 20 employees and associates who enrich my life every day.
Those of us who have been in the communications field for a while know passion and perseverance are essential to success. Nearly impossible without it. Had Professor Brill not walked me across the hall that day I would never have known that on the other side of passion and perseverance sits accomplishment, and personal and professional growth.