Carol Krajewski McIlhenny ’84, P’21 and Brian McIlhenny’s ’85, P’21 Ursinus College journey has spanned more than three decades. They met as undergraduates at Ursinus and upon their graduations joined the ranks of the many alumni couples who have married.
For both, the second best thing about attending Ursinus has been the relationships and bonds they have made with others along the way. “We have had the good fortune of forming wonderful life-long friendships with those we share a special history with; the laughs never seem to end and the years that have passed vanish when we’re together,” Carol says. The McIlhennys also like to point out their theory on the “Six Degrees of Ursinus.” Brian elaborates, “Whether it is through social, personal or professional connections, there always seems to be some sort of Ursinus link.”
Their own Ursinus link grew when their niece Lauren Goldstein ’12 began her studies at the college back in 2008, and when it came time for their daughter Erin’s extensive college search, Ursinus was a natural fit. The McIlhennys were impressed by what Carol describes as, “a winning combination of a strong field hockey program and solid academic reputation.” Carol expands, “We traveled the country visiting schools and meeting with many coaches who expressed interest, but the one who really made an impact and stood out from all others was Ursinus’s head coach, Janelle Benner.” Erin is now a member of the Class of 2021.
This past academic year they had the privilege of watching their daughter thrive on campus, growth that the McIlhennys positively attribute to Erin’s involvement with the field hockey team. Carol explains, “Erin’s experience being a part of a very close-knit team has provided endless life lessons that will translate well in the workforce as well as her personal life.” And although it has been exciting to see their daughter excel on the field, the McIlhennys revel that the most gratifying moment has been the personal maturation they have seen in their daughter over such a short time. Carol says, “Erin has stepped out of her comfort zone as well as out of our Ursinus shadows to forge her own identity; as she likes to say, ‘this is my Ursinus!’.”
After seeing their daughter thrive at the college in such a life-altering way, the couple felt compelled to give back so that other students could also gain access to an ever-important Ursinus education. They made a commitment to establish the Brian R. McIlhenny ’85, P’21 and Carol A. (Krajewski) McIlhenny ’84, P’21 Annual Fund Scholarship. Carol says, “The Annual Fund Scholarship concept really appealed to us. We felt drawn to the idea of helping remove financial obstacles for a deserving student who might otherwise miss out on all that Ursinus has to offer.” Brian adds, “Giving back has helped us stay connected to the campus and community and we feel personally invested in its future. The school is vibrant and transforming, so watching it change before our eyes is exciting.”
Seeing their philanthropy in action has certainly been an inspiration to us all. Brian and Carol say that one thing is for certain, “Ursinus is like the ‘Little School that Could!’ It is a little school that produces big thinkers and big doers. We are in awe of the aspirations of today’s student body as well as what alumni have done in the world. There is a special bond that ties us all together; makes us forever bleed red, old gold, and black!”