Hanlon leads by serving others
WASHINGTON – The CUA Smathers Award honors a former or
current Catholic University student athlete who has distinguished
themselves in service to their community, university, profession or
country. This year’s recipient, Connie Hanlon, has devoted
herself to serving others in the Washington area dating back to her
days as a child, and she hasn’t stopped since.
The CUA Smathers Award is named after John E. Smathers ’80. A political science major, Smathers earned his Juris Doctorate from CUA in 1984. He was also a defensive back on the Cardinals football team. Following graduation from CUA’s law school, Smathers clerked for a Circuit Court Judge and was an assistant state’s attorney for Prince George’s County from 1985 until July of 1991.
Smathers then joined the U.S. Army where he participated in Iraqi Freedom in March of 2003, serving in Iraq until March of 2004. One of the most decorated reservists who served in Iraq, Smathers was severely wounded in battle and after courageously fighting for his life, passed away on February 4, 2006 at the age of 47.
“I am very excited to receive and honored to be considered for the Smathers Award,” explained Hanlon, who was a member of the Cardinals basketball, volleyball and track and field teams. “My first thought was to see what the award was all about and after looking it up I flushed with emotion that things I enjoy doing would be recognized.”
Hanlon says she has been giving back for as long as she can remember, something she credits her parents for instilling in her. “I believe I have been giving back without even knowing it because my parents set the example that it should be a part of life (actively doing things), not necessarily a way of life (thinking of doing something).”
Hanlon’s father was a police officer in the Washington area, and despite working long hours, he always found time to spend with Connie and support the many causes she was involved with. Hanlon’s mother was employed by the federal government for many years, but eventually changed jobs so that she could accommodate Connie and her brother’s school hours.
“As I grew older I began to realize all of the sacrifices my parents made, and how important it was for them to teach my brother and I to be the best we possibly could be, and to help others along the way.”
She continued, “My parents taught me compassion for others at an early age. A childhood friend had been experiencing abuse by her mother, and while other children in the neighborhood were not allowed to play with her, my parents allowed it. Much later in life that friend confided in me that having me and the support from my family saved her. Till this day, my childhood friend is a regular at my mother’s house at all times of the year.”
After hearing stories like this one, it’s not surprising to hear that Hanlon decided to pursue a career in social work. “For a long time I had dreams of becoming a police detective, but instead of locking people up, I decided to take a more preventative method. I wanted a profession that would help families when they were in crisis.”
In 1985 Hanlon enrolled at CUA and declared social work as her major. After two years at the school, a professor named Mary Flynn helped to influence Hanlon’s decision to choose Family and Children as her concentration. “Professor Flynn truly enjoyed life and took the time to get to know her students.”
Following her time at Catholic University, Hanlon entered the work force, and she’s been helping others ever since. “My parents, a childhood friend and some dynamic professors at CUA have influenced me and planted the seeds for me in developing my own mindset to help foster the lives of so many families and children. There is no greater reward than to run into once teenage children/clients with whom I removed from dangerous home situations and then helped rebuild their family to provide their safe return. Then years later, when they are grown up, to hear them say thank you for helping them and doing the things that I did to help their families stay together.”
Hanlon will officially be honored with the Smathers Award at the annual CUA Golf Classic, which will take place on Friday, October 21 at Renditions Golf Course. For more information and to register, please click here.