Many sisters are close. Few, though, can credit a university with weaving the threads of their lives together so seamlessly as Heather and Stacy Hodge.
Heather ’97 and Stacy ’00 Hodge grew up in Crete, Illinois, a small town of fewer than 10,000 people just 35 miles south of Chicago. They had the best of both worlds, Heather says, “big-city thinking and small-town living. We knew everyone at school from kindergarten on up, and I wanted a college where I could branch out. Butler was the right size in the right city. And Stacy fell in love with Butler so much.”
She certainly did. Heather had barely said goodbye when the Butler campus started becoming as familiar to Stacy as her own neighborhood. When she wasn’t with her parents on their many trips to see Heather, the high school sophomore took a train alone for weekend visits.
So when it came time for Stacy to pick a college three years later, the answer was easy.
Long before then, their parents had fallen in love with Butler, too. They had joined the Butler Family Council and stayed actively involved until both daughters had graduated. They forged relationships with University administrative staff, even surprising Heather once with dinner at the President’s house and roping the Dean of Students into playing an April Fools’ joke on Stacy.
“We always said that if Dad ever went missing, we knew where he’d be. He’d be on campus,” Heather says. Stacy agrees. “Our parents gave us so many incredible values and tools to become successful in life, and they led by demonstration.”
The family’s values that had shaped the sisters’ lives as children seemed to naturally intertwine with Butler life.
“Our parents raised us to be very independent individuals. We were critical thinkers, we knew how to be on teams, and we all gave back to the community through civic involvement. We learned how to ask questions and seek answers to make a change. All those things led us to Butler, which then led us to so many opportunities,” Heather says.
Their parents weren’t the only ones who jumped in with both feet to give back through Butler.
Heather volunteered as a first-year when the College of Education needed a host for its scholarship weekend. Like so many interactions with Butler, this one turned into a lifelong relationship.
“I hosted a student who wound up coming to Butler for her first year. Now she’s one of our best friends. It’s just fun to think about the sort of chance decisions or scenarios we were put in at Butler that led to relationships like this,” Heather says.
As a Butler student, Heather took classes because they interested her and she loved to learn, she says, not necessarily because they fulfilled a degree requirement. She changed majors several times and earned a bachelor’s degree in History. Her first job was with the Indiana Senate.
Stacy changed majors only once, from Voice to Public and Corporate Communications. For her first job, she briefly worked as an Education Program Assistant for a dot.com. When the industry began to decline, she saw an opportunity to change career paths.
“I switched over to nonprofits and fell into a position with the American Hospital Association. That’s what really launched my career, and I loved it,” Stacy says. “I love what associations do to support their industries and provide the opportunity to continue learning.”
She now works for a company that runs the nonprofit National Restaurant Association’s annual education and trade show, which supports people in all segments of food service, including hospital and college campus dining. She develops all of the professional education that takes place at the show.
The love of education they imbibed from their parents would come into full bloom for both Hodge sisters at Butler and influence the course of their careers.
Heather is in her 21st year with YMCA USA, the national office supporting 2,700 YMCAs around the country. As Senior Director of Community Health, she helps local YMCAs educate adults about evidence-based lifestyle changes that can manage and prevent chronic disease. She’s played a key role in significant projects, such as one that resulted in a new benefit coverage by Medicare, and explored many avenues to help nonprofits improve the health of communities and individuals.
Heather’s first engagement with the YMCA as an organization was at Butler, just another example of the University’s unsuspected positive influences.
“I loved all the opportunities to be engaged at Butler, and I loved supporting people in the Butler community,” Heather says.
For two people who weren’t sure of their future when they enrolled, Heather and Stacy Hodge have created lives worth emulating—lives influenced in so many positive ways by their Butler experience.
“Butler is truly our second home. It means the world to us. I’m sorry; I’m getting a little choked up,” Stacy says. “I think our time at Butler has carried over to so many other aspects of our lives. It wasn’t only through our upbringing with our parents but also through Butler that we learned the whole sense of giving back in some way, large or small, and that what you put out in the world, you get back tenfold.”