Class of 2019: A Racket and a Numbers Game
When Coilin Mac Namara arrived at Stetson as a first-year student, he was ready to suit up as a member of the tennis team and follow through on his clandestine plan to switch from a business major to his passion: history.
Never mind that this native of Shankill, a village of 14,000 people near Dublin, Ireland, had never set foot on the campus prior to officially enrolling and planning his college career.
“I was offered a visit, but I didn’t feel like it was necessary,” said Mac Namara, who graduated in May with a degree in accounting and a minor in finance.
“It would have been difficult to come over here,” he continued, with the accent of his Irish roots buoying his voice. “I had made my decision.”
Growing up in Ireland, tennis had become Mac Namara’s other passion. He was ranked the No. 1 player in Ireland for his age group each year from 2008 to 2014. Still, Mac Namara realized “the background I came from and the opportunities I had” would limit his potential to make it professionally. At the same time, he also believed he had plenty of competitive tennis left in him.
“I had spent so long playing tennis at a high level that I wanted to achieve my potential,” he explained. “So, I started looking at colleges in America, because that was the next highest level of tennis.”
Yet, Mac Namara soon felt stymied in his quest, as he encountered “a lot of breakdown in communications with administrative workers and coaches” at various schools.
“I wasn’t sold on the U.S. until Coach Christophe Noblet [Stetson’s head coach] reached out to me. I had a really good relationship with him right away,” Mac Namara said. “He was amazing. He responded to my emails almost instantly. He was willing to talk, to the point where I didn’t even need to come on an official visit, because I felt so comfortable with what he told me about the university.
“It can be difficult for an international student to come over here, and everyone at Stetson that I talked to was so responsive to me.”
Unlike his tennis dreams, though, Mac Namara’s goal to earn a history degree didn’t turn out as planned.
As a boy, he had gotten the interest in history from his father, who would read history books to him. He was told by some people, however, that “history would not be the best route for me.” So instead, he pursued business administration, where his studies at Stetson got off to a rocky start.
“I was enjoying the classes, but I wasn’t engaging with the material the way I had with history in high school,” he noted. “I was set on switching over to history after my first semester.”
That changed when he took an accounting class with Bonnie B. Holloway, visiting professor in accounting and a double graduate of Stetson (B.S. ’73 and M.B.A. ’82).
“I loved it, which was crazy for me because no one in my family had any background in that,” Mac Namara said. “I thought it might have been just a fluke, so I took another class with Professor Holloway and loved it even more. I was like, ‘OK, it’s clear this is what I need to be in.’”
A stint in Stetson’s Roland George Investments Program, in which students manage a real portfolio composed of $3.5 million in stocks and bonds, led him to add finance as a minor.
Further, Mac Namara decided to pursue auditing as a profession after taking a class under Michael Bitter, Ph.D., Rinker Distinguished Professor of Accounting and director of the Master of Accountancy programs.
“[Bitter] ran the class like a real-life company. He gave examples of things that had actually happened in the world. Sitting in that class, the time just flew — it was so interesting,” said Mac Namara.
While Mac Namara’s history career was willfully derailed, his tennis career suffered an early blow: At the end of his first year, he sustained a tear in his right shoulder, which required surgery.
Mac Namara rebounded, though, and during his sophomore year his parents visited from Ireland to see him play. They had never been to the United States.
“I got to show them the campus. They got to meet my coach. Growing up, my dad came to every single one of my games, no matter where. It was really special to have him back there with me on the court. It was some of the best tennis I played in college. It was an amazing trip,” Mac Namara described.
During his junior year, Mac Namara was called upon to assume “a big leadership role.” The team compiled an 18-4 record and reached the finals of the ASUN Conference Tournament. His performance prompted Noblet to name him team captain for the 2018-2019 season. Mac Namara called it “an honor.”
At season’s end this year, Mac Namara got to clinch victories in both singles and doubles play, propelling the Hatters back into the ASUN Conference Tournament. His words: “To get the clinch in both, that was more than I’d hoped for. That’s going to stick with me.”
Between tennis and his business studies, Mac Namara didn’t have time for much else on campus. But there were no complaints. “I wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “This year especially — everything was amazing. The guys [on the team] were brilliant. I got to see myself grow as a leader and develop my skills.”
After an auditing internship at Ernst & Young in Orlando this summer, Mac Namara will return to Stetson this fall to begin pursuing a master’s degree in accountancy. Also, he will serve as a graduate assistant coach with the tennis team.
His journey from Ireland to DeLand isn’t quite over.
“I’ll get to impact the tennis team a bit more, hopefully,” Mac Namara concluded. “Stetson couldn’t get rid of me just yet.”
-Rick de Yampert