Both Michael Durkin and his daughter Kathleen Durkin studied in the PULSE program. Could baby Aiden someday follow them?
For a number of families, PULSE is more than a program—it’s a tradition that’s been passed down through multiple generations. That’s certainly true for the Durkins, a father-daughter duo whose shared commitment to the common good was inspired by their PULSE experiences.
These days, Michael Durkin ’77 is the CEO of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, but back in 1976, he was a Boston College junior looking for a way to get more involved in the community. When a resident advisor told him about the program, he signed up and joined the PULSE Council soon after. Durkin wound up overseeing two placements focused on providing after-school programs to at-risk youth, and developed a love for service work that would lead him to a 43-year career with United Way. (He plans to retire in 2020.)
The experience seems to have inspired his parenting, as well. His daughter, Kathleen Durkin ’11, SSW’16, STM’16, attended a Jesuit high school and recalls a home life that emphasized the lives of others. “We were always thinking about people who were less fortunate, thinking about the impact we had on other people,” Kathleen said. “It was an environment that really valued service.”
At BC, the younger Durkin enrolled in PULSE as a freshman and later followed in her father’s footsteps as a member of the PULSE Council. She spent many early mornings in the Haley House soup kitchen, dishing up oatmeal for guests in the same room where her father had once volunteered. And once a week, she co-taught a cooking class for neighborhood elementary school students. Both experiences solidified her desire to build a career helping others, and today she is a social worker. “It felt like such an invitation towards authenticity,” she said of her time volunteering. “The opportunity to spend time around people who have really different challenges—it shaped my career aspirations and also what type of citizen I want to be.”
This fall, Kathleen and her husband, Jeremy Vincent ’11, welcomed baby Aiden to their family, opening up the possibility of three generations of PULSE participants. “Were Aiden to decide to attend Boston College, it would be neat to see the tradition continue,” Kathleen said.
Whatever his grandson’s future, Michael said that watching his daughter discover her path in service has been gratifying. “I often say I don’t believe in legacies,” he said, “but the idea that things that were valuable and important to me in my life have continued on with Kathleen is so great. That is really a gift that PULSE gave to her and to me.”