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Iona’s Rhodes Scholar Returns to Share Her Experience and Wisdom

“I had great professors. Everyone I came in contact with gave me some kind of gift and some kind of challenge,” recalled alumna Erin Whalen McGee, Esq., ‘99, Iona’s first Rhodes Scholar, when she visited campus last April to share her story with the Iona community. Rhodes Scholarships are international fellowships awarded to scholars for outstanding achievement, as well as for character, commitment to others, and for their potential for leadership. Erin was back at her alma mater to participate in Iona’s “From College to Career” lecture series and to take part in the Iona Athletics Women’s Legacy Society Leadership Dinner panel.

Erin joined the rowing team when she came to Iona and learned
a great deal about teamwork while rowing. “If one person isn’t pulling, you’re not going anywhere. Teamwork is crucial.”

Though people might think student-athletes are at a disadvantage because of their many commitments, Erin sees these students as gaining important skills. “They are already prepared for careers,” she said when asked to give advice to graduates entering the workforce. “They’ve learned to work with others, and they’ve learned to manage their time.”

Erin is now a union lawyer and represents teamsters’ locals and a local of united food and commercial workers.

What hasn’t changed for Erin is the people. “There’s something special about Iona people,” she said. “They tend to be good people—humble, open to new experiences and creative, and I think when you get a critical mass of people like that, great things can happen.”

Her message for students is to understand that life and success do not follow linear paths. “Be open to new experiences,” she advises. “And follow your heart because then you won’t go wrong.”

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