Father, Son Chair Homecoming ‘Corral Days'
Steve Waldner '75 has a degree in sociology, and his son Cameron Waldner '06, MLA '08, earned a bachelor's and master's in political science. Together, they will chair the University of St. Thomas Homecoming event, “Celtic Corral Days,” on Feb. 22-23 on campus.
A product of a Catholic school education at Mt. Carmel High School, Steve attended St. Thomas after serving as a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps in Vietnam.
“Coming back from Vietnam, I had been out of school for four years, so having small classes helped a lot,” he said.
St. Thomas is a Family Tradition for the Waldners
Steve met his wife Patricia '75 at UST, and the legacy family also includes his brother Paul Waldner III '73, sister Margaret De la Garza MLA '96, niece Casey Waldner '06 and nephew Todd De la Garza. Steve's father, Paul Waldner Jr., also taught at St. Thomas in the 60s.
For Cameron, attending St. Thomas has been a connection to his family.
“We're three generations of Houstonians, and also three generations of social giving,” Cameron said. “Being connected to my grandfather through UST is very powerful.”
Despite the 28-year gap, Steve and Cameron shared some of the same professors.
Steve's favorite professor was Dr. Joe Graham. “I enjoyed everything of the way he taught and took two or three courses from him,” Steve said.
So it was no surprise when the professor recognized Cameron's name in one of the son's first classes at UST.
“Dr. Graham said, ‘I remember when you and your parents came on campus and you had your first tour when you were 5 years old,'” Cameron said. “At that time, I knew I had to get an A in his class.”
Both men also took Tom Bass. Cameron said to his father, “You were here when Tom Bass was here, and I took him in his last class.”
A Legacy of Community Service
After earning a degree in sociology, Steve worked for 35 years as a social worker in community organizing. He was inspired to help others at the end of his tour in Vietnam. “I wondered what it would take to put a town back together,” Steve said. “That's when I got into community organization.”
He developed a home for battered women called the Bay Area Turning Point, and served on the founding board of Communities in Schools. Steve said he was able to connect his education at St. Thomas with his personal values and profession.
“It definitely connects,” Steve said. “My whole life is in helping people, trying to get them functioning in society, and hopefully they're happier in society and have a better life.”
His son Cameron formerly served as the Chief Service Officer at the City of Houston, and now is the executive director of Lemonade Day, a community-wide educational initiative designed to teach children how to start, own and operate their own lemonade stand businesses.
“My grandfather was executive director of Catholic Charities,” Cameron said. “My father was in numerous executive roles in social work. I've taken over in that same mindset, the same course of action. It's something very humbling.”
Alumni Return to Campus for Homecoming
As chairs of Homecoming, Steve and Cameron hope to continue the tradition of alumni returning to campus to celebrate with students, faculty and staff. This year's Homecoming, “Celtic Corral Days,” includes Texas-themed events. On Friday, join alumni for a Reunion Mass and President's Reception. On Saturday, there is a brunch for the Class of 1963, a Basilian barbecue and turtle races, alumni versus students soccer game, men's and women's basketball games, a happy hour for the Class of 1974 and an after-party for all alumni.
Steve said it's important to bring alumni back to visit the University.
“When I'm back on campus, I'm always amazed at how small it was,” he said. “When I was here, the school was only 20 years old, now it's more than 65. There's some beautiful changes that have happened here.”
The Waldners encourage all alumni to return for Homecoming, and they'll start with their own family.
“Seven members of our family have been affected by St. Thomas,” Cameron said. “Part of me knows we're not going to be the last.”
Do you have a family history at St. Thomas? Submit your own legacy story at firstname.lastname@example.org