May 18, 2013
Couple Takes a Different Path to Graduation
Patrick, Marley, and Kate Flannery
Like their classmates at The Catholic University of America, Kate and Patrick Flannery have written papers, taken exams, and spent countless hours studying to get their bachelor’s degrees. Unlike their classmates, Kate and Patrick, both 24, have also juggled babysitters, potty training, and commuting by Metro with a baby and a stroller.
In an era when most college graduates put off marriage and children to get a head start on their careers, the Flannerys graduated today with their 4 ½-year-old daughter, Marley, in tow.
After the Commencement ceremony, Marley, wearing a pink sweater and a dress with pink and green flowers, wriggled in her mother’s arms, eager to see her cousins who would be joining the family later. Patrick summed up the day in a word — “great.”
Kate, who earned her bachelor’s in media studies in January, was awarded the Facundo Montenegro Award for creative excellence in media production earlier in the week. Graduating magna cum laude, she was also inducted into the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa
Patrick, described recently by Professor Gary Sloan as “a sort of film noir type who has a lot of potential for stage and film,” received a bachelor’s in drama. “He has a very wide range, from James Dean to Errol Flynn. He’s become a man for all seasons.”
The Flannerys say their success is due, in large part, to their faith and the support of their family and the CUA community. Before Marley started pre-kindergarten last fall, they would often bring her to campus, where she’d play in the courtyard of Hartke Theatre. Other students would sometimes take care of Marley while her parents were in class.
However, in December 2008, when Kate was 19 and newly pregnant with Marley, life was a different story. Kate was a student at another D.C. area university and Patrick was working at a professional organization in Alexandria, Va. They weren’t married.
When they first met, Kate and Patrick were students at a Christian school in Falls Church, Va. She was in eighth grade; she didn’t like him initially. But later they became friends and by the time they were 17, they were dating and in love.
Patrick says that when Kate told him she was pregnant, he cancelled an upcoming audition at the Juilliard School in New York City. They were married in April 2008, and Marley was born four months later, on Aug. 29.
Kate says Patrick “really brought me to Catholicism” when they started dating at 17. “Patrick shared his faith with me,” she adds. “Through it, he showed me that love is a choice. Our love for each other is something we have to choose every day and sometimes that’s difficult.” Marriage and motherhood have given her “wisdom and insight” into her faith.
“You definitely mature in a hurry when you become a parent,” says Patrick. “It’s been hard and stressful at times, but you’re never really doing it alone. God helps to keep me sane.”
Living with Kate’s parents on Capitol Hill in Northeast D.C., the Flannerys decided to apply to Catholic University, where initially, Patrick says, he felt “like a fish out of water. I was in a very different place in my life than most undergrads.”
But they say they quickly found a welcoming community. Faculty and administrative staff in the drama and media studies departments helped the couple arrange course schedules that accommodated the demands of parenthood.
Patrick had roles in several drama productions, including John Proctor in “The Crucible,” the villain in Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline,” and Eilert Lövborg in “Hedda Gabler.” For her Senior Seminar with Clinical Assistant Professor Maura Ugarte, Kate created a 13-minute documentary on urban beekeepers. Ugarte describes Kate as one of the best students she’s ever taught. “I anticipate that she’ll be an incredibly successful producer, editor, or cinematographer.”
Kate is doing digital video work for Discovery; Patrick is auditioning for parts at theaters in the D.C. area. The Flannerys say they’re planning to stay and work in the area for a few more years. After that, they may move to Ireland to explore possible opportunities in the film industry. Ultimately they’d like to move to Los Angeles, so they can both build their film careers.
Sloan says that Kate and Patrick “are a great team in terms of their interests and their maturity. That’s what it takes to make it in the up-and-down roller-coaster life of professional theater and film.”
Reflecting on the past few years, Patrick says, “I don’t believe in coincidence, I’m a fate-with-a-capital-F kind of guy. I really just feel lucky to be where I am. I didn’t plan it this way, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I feel that my family and I are very fortunate.”