Jenny Fucillo knew from the second grade on that she wanted to attend the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
After a superlative athletic career at Winthrop High School in which she became one of the best hurdlers in the state, a three-sport captain and conference MVP, Fucillo spent one year at Bates College, an elite academic institution in Maine. She excelled in the 400-meter hurdles and her relay team qualified for the Nationals.
But she wanted Notre Dame and was accepted as a transfer student for her sophomore year.
“It was a dream come true getting in and especially graduating this past May,” said Fucillo. “As far back as I can remember I wanted to go there.”
Though Notre Dame is know far and wide for the Fighting Irish football program, the school itself is very selective. There is a considerable amount of prestige associated with being an ND graduate and its alumni network is extensive and influential.
In addition to the rigorous academic environment Fucillo encountered at ND, there was the challenge of competing in a Division 1 women’s track program that had past Olympic trial participants and a sea of all-state-caliber athletes.
“The training was extremely hard and unfortunately I went through a couple of tough injuries but I can’t say enough good things about the program and the teammates I had. I made some lifelong friends.”
A Dean’s List student who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Anthropology in the pre-medical program, Fucillo has accepted a position in health care consulting at Deloitte, an international firm.
The academic distinction is particularly impressive when you add in the fact that Fucillo spent between 25-30 hours a week in conditioning sessions and practices for her sports seasons. Having grown up in a family of scholar-athletes and one rather renowned high school football head coach (her father, Tony Fucillo), the 5-foot-4-inch track star was well versed in the determination and drive it takes to excel at a demanding school like ND.
“When people ask me about the mystique of Notre Dame, I always use the quote by [former ND football coach] Lou Holtz, who would say, ‘If you were there, no explanation is necessary. If you weren’t, no explanation is satisfactory.’ “Which truly describes the overall experience I had at Notre Dame as well my teammates and friends.”
Fucillo sustained a stress fracture in her left foot and was sidelined for her senior season. “I was still part of the team but I just couldn’t compete.”
Fucillo experienced the thrill of following Notre Dame’s other sports teams, including the march to the ND-Alabama matchup in the national football championship game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, a game she attended but unfortunately won by the Crimson Tide.
“Notre Dame has big-time sports, but a small-town feel,” said Fucillo. “There are only 8,000 undergraduates and it’s a close-knit community.”
Fucillo takes pride in her athletic and academic achievements at ND. The university recognized her stellar career with the presentation of the David Huffman Scholar-Athlete Award.
“It was devastating being injured at Notre Dame but getting that award at the end of graduation was a reminder that my career had come circle. It’s more than just the athletics. It’s the full experience of being a student-athlete at Notre Dame and excelling in both and balancing both.”
At Winthrop High she had received a similar award, the Wallace B. McLean Best Athlete Award, an honor that her father, Tony (Xavier University of Ohio) and her brothers, Anthony (Colgate, Tufts) and James [Catholic University) received before beginning their prep and college careers.
Fucillo said was grateful that her parents, Tony and Carolyn, were able to visit Notre Dame and attend her track meets.
Who built the character, talent, and drive that made Jenny Fucillo an award-winning Division 1 college scholar-athlete?
“I credit my whole family,” said Fucillo. “I don’t think my mother gets enough credit. She’s kind of the cement in our house, the one who holds us altogether. None of us would have excelled without the support of my mother.
“But my dad is great. After he retired from Winthrop High before he went to coach football at Tufts, he trained me for three years. He helped me along with my high school coaches [Warren MacPhail and Mark D’Amico were great, she says] and that really made me a better athlete because of the track training and the cross training I got my father.”
The Fucillo brothers, Anthony and James, are also the source of some fond athletic memories. “I was a freshman in high school when James was the quarterback and the team won the Super Bowl – which is probably one of my greatest memories, seeing my brother and my father work so hard together and achieve that – a 13-0 record.”
She made trips to Colgate and Tufts to watch Anthony play and to Catholic University to see James in action. “I’ve also seen all of them coach now, which is awesome to see them taking their passion for a sport to the other side.”
Looking toward the future, she is excited about launching her career in the medical field at a distinguished firm.
“I’m very excited about my opportunity in Chicago,” said Fucillo. “I know I’m going to miss Boston and Winthrop. I know I’ll be back but I look forward to experiencing a different city and being with my college friends. But I’ll tell you what – I had the greatest years ever at Notre Dame.”