Six Degrees of Connection: Carmel Shields '81
Carmel Shields '81 will never forget her first day at Boston College. A transfer student from a much smaller school, she arrived at BC at the start of her junior year. "I thought BC seemed so large," she recalls, "but on that first day, I actually ran into a girl I recognized from the third grade! And at the class cookout, I met a classmate whose family was extremely close friends with my extended family in the Detroit area. She is still one of my best friends today. With BC, it seems that there are never six degrees of separation—it's more like six degrees of connection."
Shields says that this feeling of connection—to a community and its most deeply held principles—suffused her entire BC experience and helped her grow into the person she wanted to become. "College is such a critical time of personal and intellectual growth, and at BC, you experience spiritual growth as well. You may not even be aware of the spiritual growth until later in life, but it's there, giving you something to rely on when you have to make certain choices."
Passionate about education, Shields also credits BC with instilling in her a lifelong love of learning. (After graduating from BC, she went on to earn master's and law degrees.) She is doing all she can to pass along that love of learning to others. "I believe that higher education shouldn't be only for the privileged," she says. "It's critical for the future of an individual and, above all, for the future of society."
In 2000, Shields and her mother, Mary Murphy Shields, who earned a B.S. in nursing from Boston College in 1958, established a scholarship in BC's theology department in memory of Carmel's great uncle, Thomas Murphy, S.J., '50. Every year, they receive a letter from the scholarship recipient. "Each letter," she says, "reaffirms our commitment to investing in the future, to providing opportunity to an academically qualified student who would not otherwise be able to afford BC."
And Shields doesn't stop there. She also sponsors several students at Nativity Prep, a tuition-free Jesuit middle school for boys in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. During a recent luncheon for sponsors, she recalls, "a wide-eyed fifth-grader got up all his nerve and asked, 'Why do you sponsor me?' It was as if he wasn't sure he was worth it. My response was, 'You deserve it. You're our future.'"
The executive vice president of Shields MRI, a firstname.lastname@example.org healthcare organization, Shields is equally impressed with the way today's BC students give back. "When I was in college, there were only a handful of people who volunteered [for service trips] during spring break. Now it's oversubscribed. BC students are giving back so much and so early. They really are amazing people."
Active on her 25th Reunion Gift Committee and the Women's Mentoring Task Force, Shields says that she enjoys sharing BC-elated stories with former classmates and other alumni. "I love volunteering with BC in this way. It allows you to reconnect with others, and there's always a great story to tell. Most people love to hear how BC is doing and where it's headed next."