Mary Jo DiSalvo, ’76, and Sara O’Malley, ’05, pose in a frame promoting the Dublin, Ohio, Irish Festival. The two realized their BGSU connection when they started working together in public relations for the city of Dublin, Ohio.
By Annie Furia
Despite graduating from Bowling Green State University 30 years apart, Sara O’Malley and Mary Jo DiSalvo are completely in sync when it comes to their passion for their work.
DiSalvo, who graduated in 1976, joked with good humor about the age gap.
“It doesn’t matter that she got a degree before me,” O’Malley, a 2005 graduate, said.
“What she meant to say was, I got a degree before she was born,” DiSalvo quipped.
The two broke off into peals of laughter before composing themselves enough to continue. They continued to pepper their answers to questions with jokes, showing senses of humor as similar as they are.
While they never met studying journalism at BGSU, the two alumnae now work together in public relations for the city of Dublin, Ohio, managing marketing and media for events produced by the city. Though they took separate journeys to get there, both were motivated by dedication to their families.
DiSalvo took a part-time job in media and marketing for the city in 2000. The job allowed her to balance work and family, she said, even when it soon became full-time.
O’Malley took a part-time job with the city in 2012 for similar reasons. She had previously worked in public relations for a software company’s Dublin office, but left to focus on her family.
“I’m in a position where I have two babies, I have a very demanding job, which I do love, but I really wanted to be a mom more,” O’Malley said.
Not wanting to leave public relations completely, O’Malley joined a committee for the Dublin Irish Festival, which led to her current position.
Kitty Munger, a founder of the festival, said, “Sara is one of the most positive, happy, bubbly, can-do people I’ve ever met.”
She added that DiSalvo is “the same, but she’s a bit more intense.”
The Dublin Irish Festival is the biggest event that Dublin produces and something O’Malley and DiSalvo talked passionately about. The 2015 festival will occur July 31-Aug. 2.
“This event is located in the heart of Coffman Park for a reason. It’s the pulse of our community. Until you’ve experienced it first-hand, you can’t truly understand the impact it has on the local economy and beyond,” O’Malley said. “We’re the largest three-day Irish festival on the planet.”
The 2014 festival spanned over 38 acres, with more than 98,000 people attending over three days, according to the festival’s annual report.
A 2013 media release stated that the festival brought $8.3 million into the local economy that year.
The two spoke with great pride about what the festival does for Dublin, showing great passion for their work.
DiSalvo said with events, “you’re helping people create meaningful connections, memorable moments and measurable results.”
Munger praised O’Malley and DiSalvo for the work they have done for the festival.
“As a founder, I can tell you I’m glad it’s (the festival) in their hands,” she said. “All of the things they accomplish all year long, it’s just amazing.”
In addition to admiring the work O’Malley and DiSalvo do, Munger also said she enjoys being in their company.
“They’re really terrific ladies and I love working with them,” Munger said. “I wonder, if they weren’t part of it, if I would be so interested in volunteering as much as I do. They make it a lot of fun.”
The two discovered they were BGSU alumni during their initial conversation.
“I have always carried such a level of pride being a Falcon, so I’m always happy and excited to talk about that,” O’Malley said.
“You have this instant bond when you talk about your experience (at BGSU),” she said.
The generation gap is not a hindrance to working together, DiSalvo said, but actually makes them both better.
“Sara and I, having the same kind of journalism and PR background from Bowling Green, we really do work very well together with my traditional media background and her more up-to-the-minute social media,” she said. “Together we bounce ideas off of each other and come together with what turns out to be, I think, a better end product for everybody.”
“We are 30 years apart, but we are so in sync,” O’Malley said. “We laugh and we say sometimes that it’s our foundation as a Falcon.”
Munger agreed their BGSU foundation brings them together.
“What they learned at Bowling Green and being in that community – it probably gives them more in common than they would have anyway, (because) there’s just a bit of an age difference between them,” she said with a laugh.
Though Dublin is their current home, O’Malley and DiSalvo had nothing but fond memories of Bowling Green. O’Malley said her favorite thing about BGSU is that it feels like a second home.
“It’s the first time you’re away from your parents, your siblings and you go to a place where you feel at home, you feel safe, you feel the freedom to be yourself and learn and grow into who you’re going to be as a person and as a professional,” she said. “My second favorite thing is Campus Pollyeyes.”
BGSU is also where O’Malley decided to be fully dedicated to public relations, though she spent her first two years as a student athlete on an athletic scholarship in the softball program. O’Malley said that Terry Rentner, a journalism and public relations professor at BGSU who has a doctorate in social psychology, provided the push to get her more involved with public relations.
Rentner wrote in an email, “It’s wonderful to hear from successful alums like Sara. She was a success in the Tech PR field, but really found her passion with the Dublin Irish Festival. She is extremely creative and talented, just as I remember her as a student.”
DiSalvo said her professors at BGSU inspired her to work harder.
“They all gave a lot of passion to what they did, and that’s why I really wanted to become the best that I could be, because they wanted to bring that out in us,” she said.
DiSalvo went to the University of Dayton for her master’s in communication. She said that while taking classes there, “I could tell in my master’s program that the background that I had gotten from Bowling Green in fundamentals of writing and PR were really very solid.”
However, one of DiSalvo’s favorite things about BGSU is in Dublin with her.
“I love that you (BGSU) continue to produce people like Sara O’Malley,” she said.