After his dad learned about AMU on Relevant Radio, Michael O’Donnell flew down to the University’s Southwest Florida campus for a visit. As a senior in high school, he tried out with the soccer team and received a scholarship. “I had to choose between getting a degree in freezing Iowa or sunny Florida,” he recalls. “It wasn’t a hard decision.” At the end of the summer, Michael packed up his bags and declared himself a Gyrene.
When Michael commits, he commits with a passion. It’s no wonder that at the annual Athletics Awards Banquet held last week, Michael won the 2017 Gyrene Award—the highest athletics award given each year to the male and female who excel in academics and athletics, have a strong spiritual life, are leaders among their peers, and who encompass what it is to be a student-athlete at AMU. While at Ave Maria University, Michael played four years of varsity soccer, two years of JV basketball, two years of varsity basketball, and one year as a punter for the JV football team. He was an Academic All-American for three years. And, at the annual Senior Award Night, hosted by Student Life, Michael also won the 2017 Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati Sportsmanship Award.
But Michael’s achievements weren’t limited to the playing field. He had the opportunity to go on the Calcutta Mission Trip through the Mother Teresa Project, where he and fellow AMU students served the poor alongside the Missionaries of Charity. He worked with the FOCUS team on campus for three years, and was involved with the Campus Ministries Outreach team.
“Ave Maria has allowed me to express my love for Jesus and the Catholic Church not just through participating in the sacraments,” Michael says. “Mathematics and athletics are also gifts by which I can glorify God.”
At Commencement Exercises on Saturday, Michael will graduate with a B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Education. This isn’t what he planned to study at the start, he recalls, but he enjoyed his first math course freshman year so much that he decided to continue taking them until he failed one. By his junior year, that still hadn’t happened. “I knew I had enough to call it my major!” he says. “My love for math increased with every class, and I wanted to spread this love to other people.” That’s why he chose to minor in Education. “I dreamed about being a teacher one day,” Michael shares.
After he graduates, Michael’s dream of teaching will come true. “Ave Maria’s close knit community and standard for excellence in the Math Department allowed me to volunteer at Donahue Academy, the local K-12 Catholic school, as a teachers aid and substitute.” After a semester of experience volunteering, Michael was asked to join the staff part-time and to teach his own high school math class. This opportunity for professional development that Michael seized upon during his time at AMU has ensured that he graduates with a teaching job lined up. Starting in August, he will return to Donahue Academy as a full-time teacher.
We congratulate Michael on his outstanding achievements at AMU over the last four years, and for earning yet another honor by being named a President’s Award finalist. Best of luck as you prepare for graduation!
The President’s Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating senior of Ave Maria University in recognition of academic accomplishments, involvement in the life of the University, service to others, and exemplification of AMU’s highest Catholic ideals.