Building a Tradition of Giving

Written by Christine Hofmann-Bourque

Love didn’t strike Crusaders Molly Toole Roman ’91 and Mark Roman ’92 until after college. The couple had been courting for a few months when Molly invited Mark over to her Watertown, Mass., apartment. The agenda for the date? Bake 25 loaves of pumpkin bread, then give them all away. “That’s when I first knew I loved him,” says Molly. “We put on backpacks and walked around Boston and handed them out to the homeless.”

Almost 18 years and 13 wedding anniversaries later, Molly and Mark continue to put giving back at the top of their to-do lists. Holy Cross is one of their main priorities: Since graduation, they have been generous with financial gifts and pledges to the Crusader Gridiron Club, Holy Cross Fund and Crusader Athletics Baseball Fund. Molly credits a social ethics class with visiting Assistant Professor Rev. Fred Enman, S.J., for teaching her a valuable lesson that she carries with her: “Make sure you make a difference where you are, and give, give, give however you can, be it of your time, money—or baked goods.”

For Him: Lessons On and Off the Field
Both Holy Cross and Princeton recruited Mark to play football. “I knew Holy Cross had a lot to offer academically and athletically,” he says. “As I was trying to figure out what was the right school for me, I honestly reflected and prayed. The answer revealed itself.” And off to the Hill he went, playing four years under former coach Mark Duffner. Starting in his second year, he also played baseball.
After graduation, Mark signed to play professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers but, after one year, decided it wasn’t his calling. He tapped into the Holy Cross alumni network which helped him land a job at Merrill Lynch. He remains with Merrill Lynch to this day, running his own wealth management practice from its Rockland, Mass., office.

“I’m especially proud of the experiences I had as a student athlete,” says Mark, who directs some of his contributions to the College’s athletics programs. “I was introduced to kids from all over. The athletic program in particular was able to create a subculture—a brotherhood—that wasn’t available to the rest of the student body. And that helped me grow individually, spiritually. I was thankful for that exposure and for the support that the program was given.

“I had a wonderful, spiritual, inspiring, diverse and forever experience at Holy Cross,” he continues. “The friendships, the professors, the coaches, the Jesuits—that really influenced my life forever.”

For Her: Passing Up the Fighting Irish
Even though four of Molly’s siblings received their degrees from Notre Dame, and she lived across the country in Arizona, Molly knew Holy Cross was for her from the second she read its description in a book of Catholic colleges. “I didn’t know anyone,” she says, “but I was just waiting for that acceptance letter from Holy Cross. When I got it, I was like, ‘OK, we’re good. This is where I want to go.’”
Molly worked in advertising after graduation, then headed to Simmons College to become a registered nurse. Her goal was to work with children with AIDS, which she did for several years at Children’s Hospital Boston. Molly currently volunteers at a hospice and spends much of her time caring for the couple’s five girls—Sarah, 11; Anna, 10; Molly, 9; Mary Jean, 7; and Fay, 1. (For the record, Fr. Fred’s influence on the family extended beyond undergraduate courses: He married Mark and Molly and baptized their five children.)

For Them: The Next Generation of Crusaders
“We have a lot of purple at our house,” says Molly, who decks out all the kids in Holy Cross gear—from sweatshirts to socks—when they head back to the College for football games. But how does a young couple balance regular alumni donations with the financial obligations of five children? “You have to make it a priority,” Mark says. “Everyone has a different mission in life, and this is definitely a priority for our family to really contribute to something that will endure for a long time.”

It’s the next generation that inspires him: “I think what moved me most to make contributions is that, as the world’s challenges seem to be increasing every year, the critical thinking that was taught to us—to look past headlines and to question and critique for ourselves, based on our morals and values—is even more important today.”