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Class of 2013: Lives of Meaning and Purpose

Joseph Slattery ’13 Honored for Academic Success, Work with Habitat for Humanity

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is one in a series of profiles on members of the Class of 2013, who will graduate on May 19. To read other profiles, go to the Commencement page.

By Vicki-Ann Downing

A lab coat and a hammer. Both could be symbols for the four years Joseph Slattery ’13 (Mount Airy, Md.) spent at Providence College.   

Slattery, who will attend the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the fall, will graduate magna cum laude with a degree in biology. At PC, he was chosen to receive the Stephen J. Ryan, M.D. ’30 Distinguished Student Award, given to a senior accepted to medical school who possesses “the characteristics of integrity, compassion, and personality that would make the ideal physician.”

But Slattery’s success wasn’t limited to the classroom. The Office of Student Activities-Involvement-Leadership (SAIL) chose him as one of two Service Leaders of the Year for his work with Habitat for Humanity, one of the ministries under Campus Ministry. He was president of the organization his senior year — when a record-setting 208 students participated in projects during Spring Break — and a volunteer for the previous three years.

The opportunity to excel academically, grow as a person, and develop his faith made PC a wonderful experience, Slattery said.

“There’s ample opportunity to further your education, to grow academically and personally,” said Slattery. “I definitely think people are a big part of it — the people I met always making me feel welcome and inspiring me to be a better person. It helps you to grow in your faith and as a person. It’s like PC’s motto, ‘Be transformed.’ You’re able to live that out here.”

Building with Habitat

Slattery, the oldest of six children, was the first to leave home. As a freshman, missing his family and his high school girlfriend, he wondered if he had made the right decision. He turned to College Chaplain Rev. James Cuddy, O.P. ’98, who advised him to “give it a month, wait it out,” Slattery remembered.

After attending a Connections retreat sponsored by Campus Ministry, he began to feel at home. He also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, attending its “Saturday builds” in Providence, and eventually took charge of them, recruiting students to participate five weekends every semester.

“Out of all the service you can do on campus, and there’s a lot of it, it’s one that appealed to me as a guy,” Slattery said. “You definitely get the satisfaction of your work right away. You’re getting up early, you’re giving up a Saturday, you’re building a house. It’s really cool.”

During Spring Break his sophomore year, Slattery participated in Habitat’s Collegiate Challenge, traveling with other PC students to Wilmington, Del., to work on six townhouses. They put up siding, worked on a roof from a 30-foot ladder, and after work, showered at a YMCA before spending the night in sleeping bags on a church floor.

The next year, Slattery was in Lexington, Va., putting stucco and siding on a house. His senior year, as the Habitat chapter president, he drove 20 students in a van to Goldsboro, N.C., where they cleared an empty lot and worked in a warehouse. PC sent more students to participate in the Collegiate Challenge than any other school in the country.

“It’s a way to give back,” Slattery explained. “It’s a really fun week. You’re pretty dead tired. You don’t get a lot of sleep, but that’s pretty much what you sign up for. You get to cook your own food. You’re with a lot of people you don’t know. You meet people you wouldn’t normally meet. Now we’re good friends. Living and working, you get closer really quick.”

“An exceptional young man”

Father Cuddy said Slattery is so unassuming that it’s easy to overlook his accomplishments.  

“He looks like he’s right out of central casting, the perfect extra for a movie set on a college campus,” said Father Cuddy. “He has a self-effacing manner that belies his true character. But don’t be fooled by first impressions or simple appearances; this is an exceptional young man.”

Slattery, a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, excelled in biology, one of the College’s most demanding majors, but wasn’t content just to get good grades. He reached out to tutor other students “who struggle to learn those things that come to him so naturally,” said Father Cuddy.

Slattery also volunteered at Connections retreats to help freshmen make the transition to college life. And as a founding member of a small faith-sharing group, he “makes great efforts to help others come to the same close relationship with the Lord,” Father Cuddy said.

Slattery was a regular at daily Mass at 9 p.m. in St. Dominic Chapel. Last summer, as a Father Philip A. Smith, O.P. Fellow, he went to Sydney, Australia, to study health care ministry with the Eastern Australian Dominican Sisters.

He was a resident assistant his junior and senior years, living in the Fennell and Suites residence halls.

Slattery learned about his acceptance to medical school in February. He hopes to become a primary care or emergency room physician.

The girlfriend he left behind when he came to Providence four years ago? They will be married on June 22, after she receives a nursing degree from Towson University in Maryland, and will live in an apartment outside Baltimore.

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