If all goes well, by the time you read this, Danielle Arthur will be adding Esq. to her business cards. The Williamsville native earned top honors in school from kindergarten all the way up to her recent graduation from Columbia Law School. She credits her success to a foundation in Catholic education.
The 27-year-old has been surrounded by the Catholic faith since the minute she was born at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, where her mother worked. When she turned 5, her parents discussed her education and decided to send her to Catholic school, at least for the first few years, so she had a foundation in the faith. Both her parents went to public school, but when they looked into what the Williamsville district offered, they found one thing missing - any trace of religion. The school didn't even decorate the classrooms in red and green for Christmas. A "winter" concert was as close as they came to celebrating the birth of our Lord.
"We live in a great school district, but I wanted the kids in a Catholic school," explained Susan Arthur, Danielle's mother.
Kindergarten was spent at Divine Child School, because St. Gregory the Great, the family parish, was full at the time. Danielle went on to St. Greg's for the rest of elementary school. After graduating, her parents gave her the choice of what high school she could attend. She chose Sacred Heart Academy in Amherst.
"I think the most obvious reason for me at the time was the strong friendships at St. Greg's which is where I went to elementary and middle school. A lot of those students went on to Catholic high school," Danielle said. "But, it was more than just wanting to stay with my friends. The community at St. Greg's and the Catholic community in Buffalo was really important to me. I felt that I would do better continuing along that path into high school."
After shadowing Nardin and Sacred Heart, she instantly clicked with Sacred Heart. "It was the kind of place I would want to be for four years. All the girls there seemed really happy. The school itself is beautiful." She also liked the theater program and Advanced Placement classes. "It seemed like a really good fit for me," she said.
That's a phrase she uses often. She described Notre Dame University where she got her undergraduate degree in Political Science as a good fit. She applied to, and got accepted to other universities, but after visiting the South Bend, Indiana campus founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1844, she found the strong academics and exciting sports program attractive. She also liked that each dorm had a chapel for Sunday Mass. "It was kind of appealing to me that you could just head down to the chapel in your dorm in your pajamas and slippers and go to Mass that way with all your friends," she said, admitting it may have been difficult to attend Mass if she attended a secular college, as she was studious and devoted much of her time to hitting the books.
"At Notre Dame, you can definitely feel the Catholic and religious presence on campus, but there's so much more too it than just that," she said.
She first became interested in studying law while at Sacred Heart. She excelled in history and government. After completing Notre Dame, she applied to several law schools, including Notre Dame, but wanted to be in the interesting and dynamic New York City, where her brother lives and is close to Buffalo. There she attended her first secular school, Columbia.
"I think my Catholic education gave me a strong foundation. I think that's why I had no issues with going to Columbia for law school, because I had been in Catholic school my whole life," Danielle explained. "By the time I got to law school I was already 24. I had already formed my own identity and felt comfortable going to a secular, pretty liberal university for law school and be able to maintain who I was and what I valued."
Her mother is quite proud of her eldest child's accomplishments. "People always say to me, 'Wow, how did she do that?' And just jokingly, I always said, 'The road was paved through Catholic education,'" said Susan Arthur. "I could have driven a nicer car or went on more vacations, but Catholic education was important to me. I think it did make a difference."
Along with English, math and social studies lessons, Catholic education provided Danielle a kind and compassionate message weaved into the facts from textbooks, providing her with more than smarts, but a moral education as well.
"I think that Catholic education was really foundational in not just developing me as a student," she said. "I think it was a great academic education, but also kind of developing me further as a person and helping me to see my Catholic values being instilled in everything I do, whether that be something with my career, my school or with my extracurricular activities."
She already has a job lined up in a firm doing corporate law practice. She will stay out of the courtroom and deal more with contracts and the fine details of business mergers and acquisitions.
"I'm not very adversarial by nature to begin with, that's why I didn't want to litigate or be in any court trial law practice. This is more of a collaborative practice to help businesses come together and form new businesses."
Those Catholic values still shine through.