Alumna Profile: Denise Spaulding
Service in the community and a passion for helping others are central to the Aquinas identity, both as an institution and student body. This deeply rooted commitment is visibly present on campus, and is taken to new heights through the work of AQ alumni. Alumna Denise Spaulding ’83 has worked tirelessly within the nonprofit sector for three decades, and was recently honored by MiBiz with a CFO of the Year Award.
Having worked in the accounting sector for a small organization, Spaulding realized that, to move forward, she needed a degree. “I had heard lots of good things about Aquinas,” she said, “and I knew people who had attended there. Also, Aquinas had made it very easy for working people to go back and pursue their degrees in the evening. So I started taking a couple classes that way, and I really appreciated all that the school had to offer. It certainly helped broaden my management skills, sharpened my analytical and financial skills, and gave me the basics to put together accounting systems. Aquinas really helped me find and secure the training I needed to move ahead in my job and career.”
After finishing her degree, Spaulding sought a place in the nonprofit sector. Her first application was to DA Blodgett - St. John, where she has now been for 31 years. “I’ve always wanted to work with an organization that has a great mission,” she said, “and children are our mission - to provide safety, advocacy, and support for them. I’m thrilled to be with an organization that works on those things.”
“My job here has evolved over time,” Spaulding said. “When I started, the budget was about $1.5 million, and today we have a nearly $16 million budget... so a lot of changes have happened! I’ve been able to help them grow and change over time; we’ve brought a lot of things to the organization to serve more children and families, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re able to provide for whatever needs they have when they come to us, whether mentoring, foster care, adoption, counseling, residential or shelter care. So I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in that regard over time.”
In retrospect, Spaulding saw her time at Aquinas as very much influential on her time at D. A. Blodgett – St. John’s, giving her a firm foundation from which to grow. “When I came to the organization,” she said, “it was still very much a manually operated accounting operation at the time. However, I had gained a lot of knowledge and resources from Aquinas, which really helped me in building an accounting system and moving the organization ahead with technology.”
Moreover, between her time in the nonprofit sector and Aquinas, Spaulding has seen a common thread of community and its fundamental importance. “When working for a nonprofit, the community is super important,” she said. “We have volunteers as mentors, as foster parents, adoptive parents, and to help with projects on our campus. We rely on governmental funding for parents and families, but that is never enough to provide for all of our needs here. So we have volunteers who come in to paint rooms for kids, make Christmas brighter through gifts, and even volunteers who bring their expertise to our board of directors. In that sense, the community is involved with our organization every day, from operations to fundraising.”
When asked to give a parting word of advice to prospective students, Spaulding encouraged them to see Aquinas as an excellent option. “I think anyone who considers Aquinas has made a super choice. It’s a tough school,” she said, “but it makes you think outside the box, and the experience there has great benefits. They have very dedicated academic professionals there, and you won’t be disappointed!”