History major goes from struggling student to award winner

Dan Doyle in a grad cap and gownDaniel Doyle’s college career didn’t get off to a stellar start.

He admits adapting to the college environment was difficult and he struggled with some of the required core classes during his first two years at University of Detroit Mercy.

But Doyle stuck with it, working with the Student Success Center and his professors. The result was not only did he graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science, he was also awarded the Catherine A. Caraher History Prize, presented to a history major in recognition of outstanding academic achievement.

“Dan has shown about as much growth as I’ve seen in one of our majors over a four-year span,” Professor of History Roy E. Finkenbine said. “He had a very rough freshman year. But he demonstrated rapid maturation as a scholar, exhibiting a solid work ethic, good analytical skills and the ability to be an informal discussion leader in our upper-division classes.”

Professor of History Gregory Sumner said Doyle earned the respect of his peers and instructors with his preparation and the way he carried himself.

“In my more than 20 years of college teaching, Daniel Doyle is the best example I have seen of a student blossoming into a top-flight student and citizen,” Sumner said. “By Dan’s senior year he had become a star in our seminar classes, offering insightful commentary on complex issues, skilled at the give-and-take of dialogue and articulate in a way that leaders-by-example are.

“Beyond, that, I know he is also a compassionate and humble person, and his work with University Ministry and other social justice-oriented activities on and off campus made him an easy choice for the Catherine Caraher prize. Daniel took the student-centered education Detroit Mercy is known for and made the most of it.”

Doyle was humbled to receive the award.

“I was surprised and very grateful for this recognition,” Doyle said. “I will proudly display my achievement for years to come. I could not have done that without the support of my family, professors and the staff at the Student Success Center.”

Doyle said he was interested in history since he was very young, so it seemed natural to study history in college.

“When I was younger, I watched a lot of National Geographic documentaries on historical events on American history and watching episodes of ‘The American Experience’ on PBS,” Doyle said. “The events that were the focus of the documentaries were fascinating to me and as a curious child, I was always asking my parents the question ‘Why?’ My parents encouraged me to look for the answers myself and as I searched for answers, I fell in love with history.”

Doyle is thankful for the relationships he built with his professors at Detroit Mercy, especially those with Sumner and Finkenbine. Doyle said he would recommend Detroit Mercy to any students looking to develop those types of relationships with their professors.

“My favorite part about going to Detroit Mercy is just how friendly the staff and faculty are and how they are always there to help students,” Doyle said. “The small class sizes make it almost feel like a one-on-one teaching experience.

“Detroit Mercy also provides a unique opportunity for students to work closely with their professors in their field of study.”
Doyle said he attended Detroit Mercy for several reasons, including the financial aid package and his family’s long history at the University.

“My family also has strong ties to the University stretching back to 1927 when my great-grandfather worked as a maintenance man after immigrating to the United States,” Doyle said. “Since then, someone in my family has either attended or worked at the University.”

Doyle excelled in the classroom, but also got involved in several clubs including Model UN, the history honors society Phi Alpha Theta and the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.

“My favorite memory would be the APO Fellowship event to the Franklin Cider Mill this past autumn,” Doyle said. “The trip illustrated the best qualities of the Detroit Mercy community with how close everyone was. A close second would be the University Ministry organized men’s retreat, where we were locked out of our cabin after being given the wrong code to open the door.”

Doyle admitted his plans after graduation are up in the air because of the COVID-19 crisis, but he hopes to land a job at a local museum and one day work at the Smithsonian Institution.

“This summer, Professor Sumner recommended me to people at the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial to assist in developing educational programs for students visiting the World War II Memorial when it is completed,” Doyle said. “I am very honored to have been asked to assist in this project that honors our heroes.”

Daniel Doyle poses for a photo by a river.