Take on your world.

Our community of problem solvers, justice seekers and innovators have stepped up to help amid the global pandemic. 

They’re caring for critically ill patients, helping develop a vaccine, providing protective equipment, and doing what they can to minimize the pandemic’s impact. Whatever their field, these graduates demonstrate the critical thinking, compassion and courage that are the hallmarks of a St. Edward’s education. Here’s how six alumni — and one St. Edward’s staff member — are making the world a better place.

Stepping Up to Serve


Rachel Murray ’14 recently volunteered to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City. Murray, a former Hilltopper women’s soccer student-athlete and 2014 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, arrived in NYC in April. She is using her training as a physician’s assistant to help patients at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. 

Taking Care of Each Other


The Keep Families Giving Foundation, led by president Chelsea Toler-Hoffmann, MLA ’17, coordinated the donation of more than 1 million masks for healthcare workers and emergency responders. The School of Natural Sciences and the Mary Moody Northen Theatre pitched in, contributing six boxes of masks and 156 boxes of gloves for workers in Austin. Director of Campus Ministry Fr. Peter Walsh, CSC, blessed the personal protective equipment before it was distributed.

Finding a Way to Help


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, renowned fashion designer Brandon Maxwell ’08 has shifted his production team to making face masks and hospital gowns. He recently was featured on NPR’s Here & Now to discuss how he is creating protective wear for healthcare personnel. Maxwell also announced that he would gift wedding gowns to three brides whose circumstances were affected by the coronavirus. 

Keeping Her City Going


Claire Stone ’13, who has worked for the City of San Francisco for six years, was deployed in February as a disaster service worker. She began her assignment in the emergency operations center, where she worked on a community outreach strategy that included coordinating workshops for nonprofits and school districts about prevention measures like hand washing. Now, she’s assigned to the deputy section chief role on the city controller’s emergency management team. She works to maintain the city’s financial integrity during the disaster, focusing on operations like budget, accounting, payroll, data systems and cost recovery from FEMA.

Developing a Vaccine


L. Albert Venegas ’10 is part of the Covid-19 drug discovery team at AstraZeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company in the Washington, D.C., area. His team is working on a vaccine against the disease. Venegas’ role has been to develop a method for testing whether an antibody candidate could block the virus from infecting the cell. Working 60- to 70-hour weeks, he has screened nearly 9,000 antibody candidates and helped his team narrow its focus to the top 12 antibodies that will move on to the next phase of pre-clinical testing. Venegas, a McNair Scholar at St. Edward’s, is a 2020 recipient of the National TRIO Achievers Award. He will be honored at the annual Council for Opportunities in Education conference in September.  

Getting the Word Out


Former Hilltop Views editor-in-chief Joey Hadden ’19 is a visual features junior reporter at Business Insider and, since March, has been covering the impact of the novel coronavirus. Her stories have shifted from focusing on executives, celebrities and New York City lifestyle to offering work-from-home tips and profiling workers like sanitation department employees and delivery drivers. “Since the pandemic began, I’ve been engaging in more research-based reporting and virtual source-building…and working one-on-one with sources over the phone to direct them in taking photos for me, since I can’t be with them,” she says. “Right now I feel useful, and that’s what’s driving me most as a reporter.”

Protecting the Essential Workers


St. Edward’s University Writing Center Director Jeffery Downs, a former theater costume designer, put his sewing skills to work making 35 masks for members of the University Police Department and other staff who continue working on campus during remote operations. The masks are made from an ultralight industrial filter fabric that can be hand-washed and that air-dries within minutes. Downs washed and dried the masks (twice) and sterilized the bag they were in before delivering them to the hilltop.

Using Music to Give Back


San Antonio native Matthew San Martin ’20 is using his expertise in digital media and his knowledge of his hometown’s music scene to help people in need. The Communication major is producing a compilation album with a distinct theme: all songs will be the work of San Antonio musicians, but covered by different San Antonio bands. San Martin had considered the idea for a long time and thought the pandemic-induced economic downturn was the perfect time to use it as a fundraiser. The project draws on the skills he learned as editor-in-chief of Hilltop Views and president of campus digital media club Topper Studios. All proceeds from sales of the album will be donated to the San Antonio Food Bank.

Merging Data and Science to Predict Healthcare Needs

Shawn Terryah ’08 earned a master’s degree in public health from Yale University in the epidemiology of microbial diseases. After spending several years as a research scientist, he completed a data science training program. He now works as a data scientist at St. David’s Healthcare in Austin, where he helps determine the trajectory of the COVID-19 outbreak so the system can more effectively anticipate healthcare needs.

Ensuring the Quality of Protective Products

Erika Guin ’14 is a department manager for microbiology at the Austin location of Eurofins, a global company that provides laboratory testing to substantiate product claims. Her team is currently performing efficacy testing on topical antiseptics like hand sanitizers, healthcare personnel hand washes, and surgical scrubs, which are in demand during the pandemic.