Theresa Ahlstrom ’83CBA
When Theresa Ahlstrom ’83CBA graduated from high school, the possibility of attending college was debatable – literally.
“I came to St. John’s because I received a very generous scholarship to be on the Speech and Debate Team,” Ahlstrom recalled. “And for that, I am forever grateful. Simply put, it meant the difference between getting a college education or having to go another route, so scholarships are near and dear to me.”
Indeed, this incredibly outgoing and generous alumna – who currently works as a National Partner at KPMG LLP – knows what it’s like to both give and receive scholarship funding, and she was honored at the 2012 Alumni Golf Outing for her continued support of the University.
“It’s a great privilege to be recognized,” she said. “And the proceeds of the golf outing go directly to scholarships, which is particularly special. It’s my tiny way of giving back.”
The path from college to career proved to be a seamless one for Ahlstrom, who spent her undergraduate years working enthusiastically on the Debate team. There, she met her husband, Robert J. Ahlstrom, Jr., Esq. ’85C, ’88L, and also gained essential skills that would ultimately help her in the business world.
“It was certainly a lot of hard work, though I can’t say it was always a lot of fun,” Ahlstrom joked. “But I found that the ability to speak in public, the ability to quickly analyze information and articulate it, prepared me quite well for my career. Debate helps you synthesize your thoughts and think on your feet, so I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have competed on the team.”
During her junior year, Ahlstrom became an intern at Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., which would later become KPMG. After graduating with her degree in Accounting the following year, she received a full-time offer to work at the company’s Long Island office.
Three decades later and Ahlstrom has worked her way up to Partner, an incredible St. John’s success.
“I work in a wonderful environment,” she explained, “and I feel like I learn something new every day. I’m surrounded by great people and have always been treated well.”
Through it all, she’s never forgotten her college roots and she currently leads KPMG’s annual campaign to support St. John’s students. In collaboration with other alumni who work at KPMG, Ahlstrom has helped to create two endowed scholarships and meets each recipient at an awards ceremony held every year.
She received the University’s Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award in 2008 and is also a frequent guest speaker at alumni events, including the Women in Leadership panel discussion. There, she shared her perspective and insight with today’s students.
“From college all the way through my career, I’ve received great advice from people who have had more experience than me,” she noted. “That’s why I enjoy doing that, listening to students and giving them my two cents about how to deal with issues and challenges they might be facing.”
From a grateful scholarship recipient, eager to join the Debate team, to an incredibly generous alumna, Ahlstrom has seen both sides of student support, and it’s given her a perspective that she truly cherishes.
“I enjoy meeting the student recipients of our KPMG endowments,” she said. “After our presentation is over, parents will come up to me and express their gratitude for awarding their son and daughter a scholarship. And inevitably a mom will start crying, I’ll start crying, and I’ll leave the event with happy tears knowing that we’ve made a small difference and made a college education possible.”