2009 Recent Graduate Award Winner
Tony Butler remembers the first time he heard the mission of Siena Heights.
“It was my first time on campus,” Butler said of the freshman student orientation event he attended as a Deerfield High School senior. “Immediately the first presentation was about the mission. Every time there would be a large gathering of students, it would be the mission, the mission.”
He said he and many of his classmates could recite the mission by the time they graduated, but he never really grasped its full significance until after he left Siena. Now, as the executive director of Dominican Volunteers USA in Chicago, he is living the Siena Heights mission on an everyday basis.
“Working on the south side (of Chicago), it was very different from my experience of being in Deerfield and Adrian,” said Butler, who started with Dominican Volunteers as a recruiter. “What does it mean to be more competent, purposeful and ethical? … It comes from the history of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.”
He said that Dominican education has prepared him well for his current position.
“The one thing I really found interesting about (the Adrian Dominican Sisters) was their commitment to social justice,” Butler said. “How do we treat people fairly? Not only the poor and destitute, but folks who are right next door to us.”
In fact, he said that philosophy was a factor in his decision to attend Siena Heights.
“I had worked on campus with the food service,” Butler said of his high school job. “There were catering events at places like the president’s house, with all the ‘movers and shakers.’ To me, they always treated me with a lot of respect. Just because I was a dish washer or some runner at some event, that didn’t matter. They always treated me as a colleague, really, in a lot of ways. Not a subordinate. … That really stuck out.”
Butler now has had a chance to “pay it forward.” After spending a year as a DVUSA volunteer working with middle school students, last summer he was appointed to lead DVUSA, an organization placing women and men in year-long service to some of America’s poorest families.
He credits Siena Heights for putting him on his current career path.
“I had had some teachers from Deerfield who were Siena grads,” said Butler, who majored in elementary education at Siena Heights. “When I look back, those were the teachers I remembered the most. Those were the best ones I had. … There was this culture that said, ‘this was the place you want to be a part of.’ ”