Ruff Rider Named Valedictorian
June 3, 2002
by Christopher DaCosta
The Santa Clara
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Brendan Wesley Donckers states his name with pride and justifiably so. The 22-year-old Seattle-native is the valedictorian of Santa Clara for the 2001-2002 school year. The good-natured senior has embraced the breadth of Santa Clara's liberal arts education by majoring in both English and philosophy, aptly complimenting his passion for politics.
"I've always wanted to run for office," exclaims Donckers enthusiastically. A lifelong dream, the ambitious goal of a political career armed Donckers with the determination necessary to succeed at the academically rigorous Santa Clara.
Donckers combined a curriculum "centered on the history, theory and aesthetics of literature and the art of writing" with one that emphasizes "analytical thinking and precise expression," according the descriptions of the English and philosophy majors in the Santa Clara University Undergraduate Bulletin.
"I wanted to focus on being able to express myself coherently, succinctly, be able to think critically, develop the intellectual qualities that are necessary for success," Donckers said.
This objective ultimately culminated in his senior honors thesis, a fusion of Robinson Crusoe and John Locke's political economic theories.
"It was interesting because he combined philosophy and English. He was able to synthesize the courses and pull things together," explained Theodore Rynes, S.J.
Rynes, who instructed Donckers in his upper division British literature survey courses, described him as a "self-starter with an attractive personality."
Despite her brief work with him, U.S. Senator for the state of Washington Patty Taylor, was immediately drawn to Donckers' "attractive personality."
"I was so impressed with him and just liked him very much," said Taylor who helped employ Donckers as the field director for Congressman Tim McDermott's reelection campaign. Donckers will resume his role two days after graduation. Taylor and her campaign staff are thoroughly excited about Donckers' scholastic achievement and eagerly anticipate his arrival on the Seattle political scene.
Although he is not a member of Associated Students (AS), Donckers' political presence is still widely felt on campus. Co-president of the Ruff Riders Student Association, which boasts almost a thousand members, Donckers has developed experience for his future political career by recently lobbying for funds to finance a trip to San Diego to support the school's basketball team.
Through involvement on the Current University Issues Committee as a freshman, Donckers met the first president of Ruff Riders, Kevin McDonough and helped form the popular student association now known as Ruff Riders.
In addition to his executive position in the Ruff Riders Student Association, Donckers served as the treasurer for Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society.
He continued his lobbying efforts as a member of the Santa Clara Senior Gift Committee and furthered his leadership skills by serving as a Study Abroad Peer Advisor. Participating in the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP) allowed Donckers to take time out from his busy schedule to help underprivileged children.
Obviously, balancing such activities and a double major is difficult. Donckers cited that "living with a bunch of frat guys and not being in a frat" was an extremely difficult distraction for him to face.
Donckers' relationships with students inside and out of the classroom inspired his future career in politics.
"I have such an incredible passion for people," Donckers explained. "Which is why I am getting involved with politics, I love people, I love having the chance to help them and that was a motivation in itself."
Basic requirements for valedictorian put forth by the school included a 3.7 minimum GPA; a social life marked by maturity, self-confidence and exemplary ethical behavior; a notable public presence with an ability to articulate ideas logically, clearly, forcefully and pleasantly; and finally the respect and esteem of their peers so that the valedictorian will truly be a representative of their class.
"I think he is a natural because he has done a good deal academically and he has just been outstanding in that way, but he also gets along with his peers very well, so I think he will be a great representative for the class," said Rynes.
While the valedictorian is ultimately decided by School President Paul Locatelli S.J., candidates are narrowed down after a series of cuts by the Valedictorian Selection Committee.
"I think the valedictory process was a good process and the student input was particularly valuable," said Dr. Henry Demmert.
Donckers was humbled by the committee's decision to name him as valedictorian. "I'm still trying to grasp it," he said. "My GPA is strong but it's not amazing; I've done some great things at school but they're not phenomenal. I'm kind of surprised by it."
Donckers underwent many "defining moments," as his father put it, during high school and college.
"I think he has come to a good understanding of who he is and what he wants to get out of life," explained Larry Donckers'.
Planning to run for office in the Washington State Legislature two or three years from now, Donckers has gained a widespread acceptance from his peers. Freshman class Vice President Lindsey Hoshaw noticed Donckers in one of her upper division English courses, as someone who "has an energy about him that you rarely find in other people." Donckers struck Hoshaw as an outgoing and interesting individual.
Larry Donckers remembered his son's gregarious nature during freshman Welcome Weekend, four years ago.
"Even that first day, when we were waiting in line in front of Swig, he was already mingling with the other kids," he said. For the ambitious Donckers, the presidency and other high-profile offices remain options.
"He's always been pretty energetic and focused," remarks his dad.
"With politics, gosh, who knows what path he will take and where it will end up," he continued. "We would never have thought that he would become valedictorian when we were waiting to get into Swig that day, so who knows what will happen."