Iowa native Clare Eckard wanted to forge her own path after her two older sisters both went to Ave Maria University, but once she sat down with her dad and wrote out the pros and cons, she realized that “everything pointed to Ave Maria.”
Once here, she found a wealth of opportunities to grow in knowledge, faith, athletics, and service. Clare volunteered with the Mother Teresa Project, joined FOCUS Bible Studies, and was a member of the Ti Voglio Bene Sisterhood. She was also involved with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) chapters on campus. “I can hardly imagine a better education than Ave’s to help form a person professionally,” she reflects. “Through the opportunities here, I have had the blessing of attending conferences at places including Yale and Harvard, and have enjoyed many philosophical and theological discussions with new Ivy League friends.”
Like her two sisters before her (Mary, ’15, and Cecilia, ’13), Clare was also a Lady Gyrene athlete; she played for women’s cross country and received the Women’s Conference Champion of Character award her sophomore year. She was captain of the student club, LIFE Runners, and a board member of the Students for Life club. “Before I came to AMU, I was merely nominally ‘pro-life,’” Clare shares. “Ave, however, has pushed me to act on my conviction foremost by introducing me to many peers fervently working to defend the gift of life. With these peers, I have had the opportunity to pray outside local abortion mills, bus up with friends to the March for Life, serve as a LIFE Runners leader, volunteer at local pregnancy centers, and attend conferences engaging in apologetics and addressing contemporary ethical questions concerning the sanctity of life.”
Her freshman year, Clare learned about Biking for Babies from a classmate. Through the non-profit organization, young athletes participate in biking events in order to raise money and awareness for America’s pregnancy resource centers. Since her freshman year, Clare has completed two bike rides with the organization involving treks that often ranged from 90-186 miles per day. “Through these rides, I have met the most incredible friends and experienced, in a surreal way, the joy of relying almost entirely on God in body, mind, and soul.”
During her time at AMU, Clare greeted incoming students as a member of the Orientation Team, and she served the community as Sophomore Class Representative on the Student Government Council. She also found time to work as tutor in Politics. “I decided to study Politics after being involved with debate in high school and forming a desire to seek truth and avoid indifference in regards to the problems facing our world,” she explains.
When asked to reflect on how her time at AMU has impacted her life, Clare answers:
“It is hard to put to words how much Ave has changed and formed me. So much of who I am today is because of Ave. Among the things I am most grateful for, Ave has taught me the importance of devotion to our blessed Mother Mary, moved me to floods of tears of love at retreat adorations, opened my eyes to the realization that I am living in Plato’s cave and has helped me strive to get out into the light, and, ultimately taught me the meaning of life: ‘…man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself’ (Gaudium et Spes 24:3).”
Clare’s plans after graduation are still up in the air. She was discerning the religious life but was recently advised to just “be.” She has found immense peace in resting in God’s generous love and is looking forward to the adventure of finding out what just “being” looks like in her life. In the meantime, she will be working as a camp counselor at St. John’s Summer Program and will embark on two mission trips this summer.
Congratulations on being nominated as a President’s Award finalist, Clare, and best of luck as you pursue life after 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.