By Damani Eason; The Whetstone
Christine McDermott knows the circumstances of how she came into the world.
“My mom and my dad got pregnant with me their senior year of high school,” said Wesley’s assistant vice president of academic affairs. “With me being born the summer that they graduated.”
Her parents never attended college. But they wanted all their children to do what they had not.
“My parents made sure receiving a college degree was something important,” McDermott, 45, said. “Making sure that all of their four children received not one but two college degrees.”
McDermott earned a B.A. in psychology from Wesley College in 1998, and her M.A. in psychology at Washington College in 2003. She is currently working on a doctorate in education at Wilmington University.
She did not have all of the material things in life when she was younger.
“We grew up poor,” she said, and the family often got state assistance.
But many things were good.
“Most summers my parents would rent a house and take my siblings and me to the Jersey shore,” she said. “We even got the chance to go to Disney World.”
McDermott’s drive to help people started at a young age when she saw what her father did.
“I watched as my father reached out and helped my extended family members who were going through a rough patch,” she said, “From that point on, I knew I wanted to help people and try to have a positive impact in other people’s lives because you never know someone’s story and what they’re going through.”
She just wasn’t sure how she could turn that into a career.
“I thought about becoming a guidance counselor, but I didn’t want to spend more time doing paperwork and less time actually helping people,” she said. “I’m not talking bad about guidance counselors; I just wanted a more hands on approach.”
She found she was interested in psychology when she attended Wesley.
“I wanted to work in the field of helping people that couldn’t handle their own issues,” she said. “Later in life, I would even have some moments of wanting to take kids home who needed extra help in their lives.”
McDermott knew how to balance being a college student.
“My motto was homework first, party later,” she said.
McDermott developed close, platonic friendships with the guys who lived above her in the Williams dorm. Later, after the guys moved off campus, they let her use a cabinet for alcohol.
“My friends and I would come to the lacrosse house with our drink of choice, Boone’s Farm Apple and Watermelon Wine, and leave it in one specific cabinet,” she said. “People knew not to touch ‘Tine’s cabinet.”
McDermott also met her future husband at Wesley. The moment that truly sparked their relationship was when they were hiding from the police at a frat party.
“We both hid in the same closet unintentionally,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I try and make the best of this.’”
After McDermott was married for two years, she gave birth to her son, Kane.
McDermott said she had had plenty of experience with watching her younger siblings. She was 11 years older than her youngest two sisters. She also was a babysitter for the neighborhood.
But having your own child is different. McDermott read plenty of parenting books but none of them prepared for how she would feel after she had her own child.
“My son was born on a Wednesday and so my husband took off the rest of the week from work,” she said. “However, my husband had to return to work the following Monday. By the end of Monday when my husband came home from work, I was a hot mess.”
During that week, McDermott’s father reached out to her.
“My dad called and asked how I was,” she said, “At first, I responded pretty calmly and said, that I was fine, but he knew that I was lying. So, he continued to ask. Once, he did that, I started to bawl my eyes out.”
He called her mother, who came to help her with the baby.
“From that point, I knew that I needed to ask for help and that I couldn’t do it on my own,” she said.
When her son got older, McDermott watched him chase after a bird.
“With watching my son chase after the bird, I was able to think back about my times as a kid playing on the beach with my own family,” she said, “I was also able to forgive my father for not being present during my childhood and being able to experience those little moments with me.”
When McDermott gave birth to her daughter, Kailee, a few years later, she felt much more prepared.
“The pregnancy as a whole was much easier,” she said, “My daughter grew up to be more of a spitfire than her brother.”
McDermott said she enjoys bringing her children around the Wesley College campus.
“I wanted my children to meet people of different backgrounds and walks of life,” she said. “I wanted my children to experience what it’s like to have older siblings since it’s just the two of them.”
McDermott’s parenting knowledge helped fellow Wesley College alumna and Career Advising Coordinator Kendall Wilson- feel welcome when she got interviewed for her job.
McDermott and Wilson- both studied psychology as undergrads at Wesley.
“She was asking me about what faculty I had while I was here as a student,” Kendall said. “She immediately made me feel more comfortable, like we were old friends.”
At the end of the interview, Kendall disclosed to McDermott that she was eight months pregnant, trying her best to conceal her stomach with a big jacket. Kendall was worried that she was not going to get the position.
“(McDermott) said, ‘Well now that you’ve said that, can I ask, do you know what you’re having?” Kendall said. “Anyone who knows ‘Tine knows how much she loves babies, so she once again made me feel comfortable about the awkward situation.”
Justin Blank, Wesley alum and academic success center coordinator, said McDermott embodies what Wesley College is all about.
“She embodies what it means to be a Wesley Wolverine and really cares about the students, faculty and staff who are a part of the campus,” he said, “She will not lie or sugarcoat situations to make them sound better.”
Danielle Archambault and McDermott have been working in the SSR department for the past six years.
“I jokingly refer us as the Batman and Robin of higher education,” Archambault said. “Over the years, we have grown our working relationship into an unbreakable bond sealed by a passion for student success, lifelong learning, and care/compassion for one another, our SSR team, and our families.”