December 2006 High School Student of the Month: Molly Quinlan

“Molly is a brilliant student who is engaged in learning and in the life of the school.”

– Renee Genereux, Director of Visitation Upper School

School: Visitation
Year: Senior
GPA: 4.22
Age: 17

As the only remaining all-girls high school in Minnesota, Convent of the Visitation School considers graduating confident, intelligent, well-spoken women a matter of pride and passion. Their motto is ‘Not for School But for Life,’ after all, and in amazing fashion, this year’s Student Council President Molly Quinlan seems to fit that mold so perfectly she practically overflows it, as only a true leader can.

“Molly leads the student body with courage and grace, willing even to remind students of their responsibilities as ambassadors of the school,” says Director of Upper School Renee Genereux.

The St. Paul native, daughter of Shannon O’Toole and Howard Quinlan, is as good of an ambassador as they come, encompassing the tradition and well roundedness Visitation so highly values.

“My experience at Vis has been one of unfettered growth. I’ve been allowed to take risks, be the occasional ‘rebel without a cause,’ and fulfill my learning-avarice,” she says. “All of this is accompanied by the constant, gentle guidance of the sisters. Their dedication to instilling a spirit of assertive strength in its young women has been an integral piece of my development while at Visitation.”

Attending the Mendota Heights private Catholic school seemed natural for Molly—when she began in 7th grade she was following in the footsteps of many family members generations before her. Her Dad’s aunt graduated from Visitation in the 1900s; her grandma studied there from grade school through high school in the 1920s and 30s; her aunt was a dean; several of Molly’s cousins studied at Visitation and her younger sisters, Catherine and Coco, also attend the institution.

In no time at all, Molly made Visitation her home as well, furthering the family tradition. She hasn’t taken that role lightly.

“Molly is the type of student who takes learning to heart. She wants to get the most of her education,” says Connie Parsley, science department chair and senior advisor.

Molly has done just that, challenging herself in AP courses, earning several academic honors, and perhaps most notably, winning the Harvard Book Prize, awarded to the outstanding student in the graduating class who, according to the Harvard Alumni Association, displays excellence in scholarship and high character, combined with achievement in other fields.

“In the lab, she is always helpful to those around her,” Parsley says. “She assists with such grace, bolstering the students’ confidence while helping them. She is unselfish with her time and talents.”

This altruism and leadership tendencies guide Molly’s behavior outside of the classroom as well. She’s captain of the lacrosse team, manager of the hockey team, on the leadership committee and a PeaceJam facilitator. In fact, Molly had the honor of meeting the Dalai Lama, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, her role model, and ten other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates at the International PeaceJam conference in Denver.

“The insight I gained and the inspiration with which I returned to Minnesota were amazing.”

Visitation has no doubt she represented them well.

“Molly speaks to groups of students and adults with an ease and command of language remarkable for someone her age,” Genereux says.

What’s also impressive is her genuine interest in education and appreciation for the very instructors that have fostered her development. Asked to choose, she simply can’t find a favorite subject or Visitation teacher, although she does recognize a predilection for history.

“Maybe it’s the relationship of history with the contemporary, the insight history offers into today’s politics, relations and crises.”

Via her PeaceJam endeavors and love of history, this self-titled ‘Renaissance Woman’ is interested in international relations and hopes to one day study peace and conflict resolution as a graduate student at Oxford. Finishing her senior year—full of school functions, holiday charity work and an end of year senior service project—comes first though. Then comes college.

“I have applied to 12 colleges spanning from California to Massachusetts, but I have no idea where the college path will lead me.”

Yet one thing is for sure. Visitation is bound to be proud of its current student council president—a young woman ensured to take with her the ideals she’s garnered throughout her high school years.