Parent to parent: Your child will blossom here

Every parent’s ultimate dream is that their child can find both personal and professional happiness.

That was ours when our daughter, Alexa, began looking at colleges. We toured 22 of them, but it came down to two or three in the end. She often asked my wife and me for our view, and while our view was that Gettysburg was the best college for her, we never expressed that opinion. We wanted her to make her own decision, to be personally invested in the choice she made.

Ultimately, she was.

Our memories of Move-In Day are particularly vivid, since our only child was about to leave us for college. Of course, we experienced all of the things that we were told to expect – the students descending out of nowhere to unpack our car, the first interaction with our daughter’s roommate and new friends, the jam-packed schedule of events that kept the day moving.

The one thing that we remember most was really the complete opposite of what we were expecting. It happened when my wife and I were saying our goodbyes after the students had been officially matriculated into the College.  My wife started to cry while Alexa, on the other hand, told us she couldn’t really stay long – her new friends were already waiting for her.  She was not unhappy to see us leave.

It certainly wasn’t what we expected. As we were driving home, though, we realized that it is exactly the way we would have wanted it.

The way she dived into the community early on was just a harbinger of things to come.


Her time at Gettysburg provided her with many opportunities to become a confident, well-rounded, and successful young adult. She took advantage of all of them. From studying abroad to playing the trumpet in the Jazz Ensemble, working as a tour guide coordinator to becoming an officer in her sorority, she found many ways to not only be involved, but also to become a leader in her community.

My wife and I noticed little things at first, a continual development of confidence in our daughter that let us know she had made the right choice. We knew that this was a place with a lot of opportunities for her to explore new avenues that meshed with her interests. The best part was that our daughter didn’t have to fit into one mold or follow one path to be considered successful. I often find that to be true for other Gettysburg students as well.

Alexa did more than just succeed at Gettysburg – she was really able to blossom, and I think that it is the welcoming, supportive community she found there that enabled her to do that. From a parent’s perspective, that is what you hope your student will find – a community that allows them to blossom. It’s important to let them flower and develop on their own, and Gettysburg certainly provides the support to do that.

The Gettysburg experience is overwhelmingly that of a welcoming community. It provides its students with all of the opportunities they will need in order to succeed and develop. Within the Gettysburg community, with the quality of offerings it makes available, the College has demonstrated that its students do more than just succeed – they thrive. That is probably the most important thing I could tell other parents. That was our experience here, and it will likely be their experience, too.

The end result is ultimately something very positive. Every parent wants their child to be able to find personal and professional success. Our daughter was able to find both through her experience at Gettysburg – she received her Master’s degree following graduation and now has a job in her chosen field. She continues to give back to the College through her service on the BOLD Council. As other parents embark on their student’s collegiate journey, I am sure they will find their child both enjoying and benefiting from their Gettysburg experience.

Steve Mahinka P ’10 is a partner at Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius, LLP, and has served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2008. Previously, he was a member with his wife Nancy Casper of the Parents Leadership Council. Their daughter Alexa Mahinka Kiernan ’10 graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Art History and has earned a Master’s degree from the George Washington University School of Business. Currently, she is the Associate Director of Law Alumni Relations at George Washington University Law School and serves as Co-Chair of the Washington D.C. Alumni Club.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Kasey Varner, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6806

Posted: Thu, 27 Aug 2015

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