Generations who study together at King’s

Written by Jane Antoniak

Often the allure of going away to university is simply that: going away. Leaving behind family and striking out for an adventure in a new place with new faces. That’s what Chris McDonell, BA ’83 (English) thought he was doing as he climbed into his parents car and left Toronto for his first year at King’s. As the eldest of seven children, he says he was anxious for his own space. After he arrived, he was having such a great time he decided to invite his sisters for a visit. Before he knew it, both Anne and Carolyn were sharing the campus with him too!

Both Carolyn McDonell, BA ‘84 (Economics) and her sister Anne McDonell, BA ’84 (English/History) ended up graduating in the same year causing some people to think they were twins, when in fact Chris is only 13 months older than Anne and Carolyn followed 18 months after her older sister. “As we grew up, it was us three older kids as a group,” says Carolyn. “Being from Toronto we had this idea that none of us wanted to go to Queen’s. The plan was always to go west of Toronto. King’s is a great school, a beautiful campus and only two hours from Toronto. We were away from home, but we could go back for the weekend or see each other on campus,” she adds.

The good vibes continued along the family tree resulting in their younger sister, Marjorie MacIsaac, BA ’87 (Economics) continuing the McDonell family tradition at King’s.

“I think it was providential that I went to King’s because it felt like the right place to be,” says Chris. “Not the most informed decision in hindsight, but it worked out fantastically well.” Today, Chris is the founder and publisher of eatdrink magazine in Southwestern Ontario.

Like many, the McDonell clan was drawn to the culture of King’s: close community ties and personal connections with other students and professors. “There is actually a relationship there, people are not a number,” says Chris. “We have a very cohesive family and I think we appreciate the closeness of community.”

Their family culture rubbed off on the next generation as, so far, three children of the McDonell alumni have also made King’s their home. Two of Chris’ children: Tara McDonell-Gordon, BA ’12 (History) and Quinn McDonell-Gordon made King’s their post-secondary school of choice. Tara laughs that King’s was one of the first places her father showed her when the family moved to London. They ended up living just a few streets away from campus. Tara chose King’s and decided to move into residence for the “full university experience”, even though it was a stone’s throw from the family home. “I had a great time and I wouldn’t have changed it. If I had the option to do it again I wouldn’t choose another school,” says Tara. She is now in the Master of Library and Information Science program at Western and she works part-time at the Cardinal Carter Library.

Anne’s daughter Leah Travaglini ‘13 is a new graduate of King’s with a BA in English and History. Her Mom and Uncle Chris proudly watched her convocation in June. “For me it was an easy choice to come here,” says Leah. “It was the tradition, it seems. King’s is such a great campus because it is small and you have small classes and fantastic profs, but you get to experience the atmosphere of Western. It was just the best choice I could make,” she says. Leah is now working at the Bank of Montreal as an assistant to the head of foreign exchange. “King’s has been an unforgettable experience and I’m so glad to have spent four years here,” she says.

The McDonell siblings say they are thrilled that their children are now choosing King’s and predict that more will be coming.

“It’s scary how it seems like yesterday that I was here,” recalls Anne. “To think I have a child here is kind of surreal. It really makes it extra special.”