Sean Morrissey ‘16

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    2016

    What was your major at St. Mike’s and when did you graduate? I graduated from SMC in 2016 with degrees in economics and history.

    Did you take part in any clubs or activities at St. Mike’s that were important to you or shaped your experience there? I was heavily involved in the Honors Program. I served as a class rep my first year and ended as co-president my senior year. I lived on an Honors floor my freshman year, and so a lot of my closest friends were also in the program. We didn’t venture far from one another after that. Organizing events for the Honors Program like the faculty panel and participating in the welcome luncheons for prospective students was such a highlight of my four years. I met so many great people because of the Honors Program, many of whom became an integral part of my St. Mike’s experience.

    What is your current profession and why did you choose it? I currently (April 2022) serve as a petty officer in the United States Coast Guard. I arrived at the Coast Guard after having been talked out of joining the Navy by my classmate and fellow Coast Guardsman, William Lowe ’16. I had always wanted to serve my country and the life-saving mission of the Coast Guard drew me right in. I often heard Father Brian Cummings talk about “discerning the call to serve,” like God called us to do or be certain things in life. I had written off joining the service at the end of high school, but the desire to join would always return. I was already living far away from my girlfriend—now wife, Catherine Vu Morrissey ’16—and had a good job working at a non-profit. However, that feeling came back but this time I felt ready to commit myself and to serve. Why did I choose this profession? There is nothing in this world that one should not pursue if at the end of your life you wish you had done it. For me, that was the military.

    What activities, hobbies, volunteer work or passion project means the most to you? Does it give you a sense of purpose or help others find theirs? My wife got me into running not long after we started dating. It helped turned my life around in a lot of ways. It taught me discipline, consistency, and how important the process is to achieve success. I’ve struggled with depression for a long time. Running helps me stay present but also helps me look down the line toward what it is I’m trying to achieve. I’ve been able to manage my highs and lows a lot better because of it. I’ve also been able to do some good because of it. Through a GoFundMe campaign, I raised over $8,000 for the Semper Fi and America’s Fund, a non-profit dedicated to helping our combat wounded, while training for the Coast Guard Marathon. Whatever my passion is—and it has changed over time—I always tried to use it to benefit others.

    Do you feel that the liberal arts education you received at St. Mike’s helped your abilities to communicate effectively or problem solve? How has a liberal arts education helped or hindered you or your career path or finding purpose in your life? The ability to communicate effectively and understand others through writing is inherent to a liberal arts education. That will never not be valuable. As the world becomes more insular, it is more important than ever that we come to understand many perspectives or, rather, look at a single issue from many sides. So often in my undergraduate career, I would come across one problem while reading history only to encounter it while reading literature. Exposure to many disciplines enables us to think outside the box, which is needed for problem solving. History allows us to learn from the mistakes of others and draw from their experience. If we choose not to expose ourselves to the humanities, we will falsely believe that the problems we face are new. But there is nothing under the sun that is new to human behavior and that is why a liberal arts education is valuable. It is why St. Mike’s is committed to the humanities, because it helps students be more prepared for the challenges they will face out in the real world.

    Do you recall when you first realized what your purpose or passion in life might be? Sometimes you find your purpose after you’ve already been doing something for a while. There is one moment that I recall where I felt in my bones that I was born to be a sailor. My cutter was returning from the Arctic and a distress call went out from a New Bedford fishing vessel that was taking on water. It was 20-foot seas and we needed to get our small boat in the water to deliver a portable pump to help them keep up with the flooding. My supervisor was the only heavy weather crane operator and he had left for a family emergency on our last port call. He was my best friend onboard, and we saw each other through a lot of hard times. With him gone, the responsibility fell on me as crane operator to launch our small boat safely in heavy seas and then recover it. No matter how uncertain or afraid I was, those fishermen needed our help. I had to pull through. I felt that God put me in that position, to get our guys safely in the water so that we could help those fishermen. It is hard to say what our purpose is in life, but we can certainly point to times where we were somewhere for a purpose. That could be standing up to a bully, talking a friend down from an anxiety attack, or helping someone in need. We may not always know what our passion or purpose is, but it helps to remind ourselves that somewhere, there is someone counting their lucky stars that you were where you needed to be at that moment.

    How did St. Mike’s nurture or inspire your sense of purpose? What has this sense meant to you and others around you? How has it shifted throughout your life and career so far? In Professor Clary’s Shakespeare seminar, I always remember the part from Polonius’ monologue in Hamlet where he says to his son, “To thine self be true.” I have always tried to be honest with myself, which can be a difficult thing. What is rational and what we are called to do are not always the same thing. St. Mike’s always challenged me to be honest especially when it was most difficult to be. I left a good job in non-profit and extended my long-distance relationship with my wife to join the military. But, because I was honest with myself, I would make that same decision again every time. The other important thing, and it’s really in the same scope of being honesty with yourself, is that whatever you do you must find dignity in it. This means that you show respect for the job that you do as well as you respect the talents you have by doing that job. I quit my job at the New York State Capitol because I felt that I was neither respecting my talents or the job by being there. I left and went to a non-profit where I got to help young adults who had dropped out of school find jobs. Find respect and dignity in what you do, and purpose will follow.

    Which of your accomplishments have made you most proud? I’m most proud of becoming a 2nd class petty officer (equivalent of a sergeant in the Army). I set the goal early on and worked hard at it. There were many early mornings getting up at 4:00 a.m. to study for an hour or more before heading off to work. Most of the guys that I had looked up to were 2nd classes and I saw that they held themselves to an elevated expectation of competency and leadership. Now, I get to play that same role for my subordinates and other guys on my boat. The greatest change you can make in someone’s life is to be a good example for others, whether that’s as a shipmate, a husband, or a friend. You can’t hold others to a standard that you yourself aren’t willing to uphold.

    What has it meant to you to have a sense of purpose? What is the most important lesson you have learned? Having a sense of purpose means involving people in your life. Just because it is your purpose doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect them. The most important lesson I have learned is that you have to communicate your intentions and desires with your loved ones. I made the big mistake when I decided to join the military of not consulting my wife, then girlfriend, Catherine, or my family. Sure, it took months for me to decide, but by the time I was ready to tell her and my family, they had no say in a decision that would affect their lives as well as mine. I just sort’ve laid a decision at their feet and said, more or less, deal with it. If I was as determined as I think I was to join the military, it would have only solidified my decision to smooth things over with my loved ones first, to make sure that they were involved in the process, that their questions and concerns were answered first. That way, they would be involved and maybe some of their fears would be quelled. I have since changed course on how I approach big decisions in my life. Tell people what you think, your dreams, your goals. It will only strengthen, not hinder you.

    What part of the ‘Forward with Purpose’ strategic plan stands out to you as the best new ideas for the St. Mike’s community going forward? What in the plan do you find most inspiring? Having a career “mentor on day one” means a great deal. St. Mike’s strength has always been in its mentors. Orientation leaders serve that purpose for incoming students in a lot of ways, but they often go their separate ways. It is important that whoever the mentors are that they are responsive.

    “Build an integrated residential health education program for students that fosters personal development and community resilience for lifelong habits of wellness.” It would have made a massive difference if I had taken advantage of learning to take care of my body and mind at St. Mike’s. It would have helped me a lot to utilize my support system and resources there, rather than when I left.

    Is there anything you’d like to add about your experience at St. Mike’s and what it means for your life now? I met my wife at St. Mike’s, on the LEAP retreat for that matter! That alone would have been worth the experience. But I also met my best friends, my mentors, and people I owe a debt of gratitude to for just being kind and fun to be around for four years.