As the wife of University President John J. DeGioia, Theresa DeGioia (CAS ’89) is used to letting her husband take the spotlight. But Georgetown’s first lady has her own unique story to tell. From her time spent on the Hilltop to her experiences as a White House staffer, this wife of a university president and mother of 5-year-old John Thomas DeGioia has an interesting perspective to share.

Tell me about your time as an undergraduate at Georgetown. What made you want to come here?

My parents met at [the University of San Francisco], which is another Jesuit institution. So I thought about Georgetown, I think, because of my parents and their Jesuit education, and also I loved the idea of going to D.C. It’s such an international school with so many different programs and students from all over the world. . Then I came here and just fell in love with the place.

I majored in psychology and I minored in government. My favorite thing that I did at Georgetown was GUSA. I was one of the representatives from each class all four years, and, one of the years, I ran the Assembly. It was really a great chance to get involved and do things and know so much more about student life and all the student activities that were available.

What did you do after graduation?

I went to work at the White House for [President George H.W. Bush] at the Office of National Service. We basically promoted community service. One of the things we did was we looked around the country for different examples of community service projects, so I worked with nonprofit organizations as a liaison to the White House. . It was really an amazing opportunity. My dad actually ran Catholic Charities in Nevada for 30 years, so I felt like I was doing a little bit what my dad did. .

After that, I came back to Georgetown and worked at the alumni house. It was the best job. I got to work with the [most recent] 10 years of graduates, so I got to run Homecoming, fifth reunion, 10th reunion. .

After that, I went to grad school. I decided to change careers. I did a Master’s in social work at Catholic [University]. I did clinical social work, so I did more of a focus on counseling, which let me use my psych degree from here. I specialized in children and adolescents. After that, I worked with juvenile delinquents in a locked-up facility with mostly boys. .

How did you meet President DeGioia?

OK, I’ve never told anyone all this stuff. Well, I guess it was when I was working at the White House. Jack was invited to come and talk to our office about community service initiatives. I just remember admiring him for all the work he did with community service. .We all got together then for meetings and stuff, so that’s when it sort of started. This was in 1991.

Then, soon after that, he came out to Las Vegas, where I’m originally from, and Jack has an incredible memory. He came out to Las Vegas with his family to see a basketball game, and he remembered that I have three younger brothers and he asked if my brothers would like to go to the game. I thought that was so nice, and it wasn’t even for me – he didn’t even know if I was going to be out there or not. In the end, it ended up that I was going to be there, so we all went together. It was so Catholic – all of us together with my family and Jack’s family and we went to a basketball game. Then it all started from there. We got married in 1994. .

Jack’s really the one who’s the romantic one. He has such a great memory – he never forgets anything. So when we first got married, we came back from our honeymoon and a couple of weeks later, it was our one-month anniversary and he sent me flowers. I happened to be home sick that day and the office called up, so someone called me and said, `Oh, you’ve got to come in, there’s the most beautiful flowers for you.’ I called Jack up and I said, `Someone sent me flowers. I think I might go into the office and see.’ And he just said, `Oh really? Who do you think sent them?’ and I said, `Well, I don’t know, but I’ll tell you as soon as I find out.’ And then it turned out that he sent me flowers every month on our anniversary. The first couple of months it still surprised me, so he would say, `It’s really difficult to be sentimental with you when you don’t even remember our anniversary!’ I got it by the third month. He’s a sweetheart.

What’s it like being the wife of the president of a major university?

It’s so exciting. All the people you get to meet, it’s such a blessing. The things that I’m really interested in are the things that promote Georgetown. I really like doing things that promote social justice, anything that promotes interreligious dialogue. . It’s really great all the opportunities I get. There’s really a never-ending list of things that I could get involved with.

I hate when people pretend that it’s so easy to balance everything, and it’s so easy to be a mother, because it is difficult to balance it all. You just have to make sure you have your priorities, [which for me is] that I’m there for J.T. I also try to provide a balanced home for Jack when he gets home from all the craziness, and because he travels so much, I really try to make sure I’m there for J.T. But I do get to do a lot of amazing things. And I love promoting Georgetown. I told Jack he’s lucky he married someone who loves Georgetown just as much as he does.

Who are some your favorite people that you’ve met since DeGioia became president?

Well, first of all, the Pope. It’s fun just the opportunities [J.T.] gets to have by virtue of being the son of Jack DeGioia. He’s gotten to meet both Popes in his short lifetime, and he always brags because with [Pope Benedict XVI], I introduced him to the Holy Father and then Jack introduced him and said, `This is my son.’ So he blessed him twice and now J.T. always says, `I was blessed twice!’

Oh, and I can tell you a great story about [Pope John Paul II]. This was when J.T. wasn’t even 1, and he was starting to get restless because there were so many speeches and everything. We were sitting near the front and Jack gave him a chocolate cookie right before we went up. I was ready to kill him! So we were walking up and the Pope’s wearing the most beautiful, pristine gown and J.T.’s drooling chocolate. He loved kids, that Holy Father, so Jack is holding [J.T.] when they took the picture. The Cardinal next to him, I think, told [John Paul] that we were from Georgetown, so when we got up, he said `Ah, Georgetown.’ So the picture is Jack holding J.T. up, and J.T.’s horrified, and I’m like, `Yeah Georgetown!’ It’s the greatest picture .

Any plans for your husband’s 50th birthday?

Well, I’m not going to tell you because it’s a surprise, but it’s sort of ongoing now. It was a big one, though. I think he handled it very gracefully. . It’s very hard to surprise Jack, though. And he’s not materialistic, unlike me, who’s so easy to get a present for. He doesn’t like anything. The only things he likes are books, so J.T. and I are actually creating him a book. He knows we’re making a book, but he doesn’t know what it’s about. .

I think it’s really rare when someone’s abilities really match their job, but Jack is really getting to do the things he loves, so it’s a great synergy. Even though he spends every day, seven days a week, at Georgetown, I can’t fault him because he’s doing what he loves and great stuff for Georgetown.

– Interview by Sarah Mellott

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