CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA PHOTO BY DANA BOWLER
Meredith Eib, a graduating student from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at The Catholic University of America in Washington, hugs John Garvey, the president of the university, as he presents her with the 2017 President’s Award.
CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA PHOTO BY DANA BOWLER Meredith Eib, a graduating student from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at The Catholic University of America in Washington, hugs John Garvey, the president of the university, as he presents her with the 2017 President’s Award.

On May 1, 2013, the time had come when Meredith Eib had to decide where she would go to college. Even though Eib said it didn’t make sense financially or geographically – since she is originally from New Hampshire – she felt that The Catholic University of America “was the only school that was sticking on my heart” and decided to follow that instinct. Four years later, she said listening to the voice inside of her heart “was the best thing I could have done for myself.”

At Catholic University’s commencement on May 13, Eib received the President’s Award, which is the highest award given to a graduating senior to recognize outstanding service, leadership and scholarship.

As Eib received the award from John Garvey, the president of Catholic University; and Carrie Grundmayer, the president of the Alumni Association; Elise Italiano, the executive director of University Communications, introduced her, saying that while Eib is dedicated and passionate in her studies, “Meredith’s work and service outside of academics is what makes her stand out.”

Eib began as a music major at CUA, and joined the musical theater program early on in her freshman year. During the first half of her college career, she stuck with that program, but struggled to find her own individuality within it.

Meanwhile, outside of class, she was volunteering regularly with different campus ministry programs, such as bringing food to the homeless; visiting places like the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Beacon House, Bethlehem House, the Little Sisters of the Poor; and volunteering with Best Buddies. She also helped lead retreats for freshmen and for those preparing for Confirmation.

“I felt there was this huge divide in Meredith as musical theater and Meredith who serves with campus ministry,” she said.

After reflecting on this conflict, Eib decided to find a way to incorporate her love of service into her passion for music.  She met with her advisor, and started a proposal for a new minor: “Music as a Form of Education and Service.” Her thesis was about incorporating music into special education.

“My role in theater is someone who is trying to boldly live out my faith in a career that doesn’t always scream faith and service,” she said.

Outside of class, Eib continued to do activities that reflected her minor, like visiting the Little Sisters of the Poor to sing with their elderly residents, volunteering to teach music classes at Excel Academy Public Charter School in Washington and direct music for the musical production at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington. She also sings at the Saint John Paul II Shrine.

“It made me feel like I had found my vocation within musical theater,” said Eib.

Eib’s inspiration comes from a variety of figures – from the saintly example of Mother Teresa to the more close-to-home role of her father. She said she has always been inspired by “the notion of seeing God in the lives of the poor,” and by seeing her dad wake up early on Saturday mornings to go do small, unnoticed acts of service for others.

“Faith has always been something that has been a constant in my life,” said Eib, who has gone to Catholic schools since kindergarten. “It has shaped everything I’ve done.”

Over the next year, Eib intends to continue auditioning and performing, before eventually going onto graduate school, studying something like music therapy or special education. During the months of May and June, she will be working with a theater company in Boston called  “Create. Inspire. Change” that performs in underprivileged schools.

“I have never had a time in my life before where I’ve had an empty calendar beyond September,” she said, noting her excitement to see where it will take her.

Eib said she was shocked when she learned that she was receiving the President’s Award, and that receiving it in President Garvey’s honor meant a lot to her, since she has worked in his office for the past year.

“It’s been really cool getting to work alongside him and see the man that he is,” she said, noting how he is both student and service-oriented. Getting the award, she said, is “motivation to keep doing what I am doing.”