Volunteering runs in the family for A&A father-daughter duo

Some people come to Penn State for their degrees and never look back, but for others it shapes the rest of their lives.

Dave Cavanaugh and his daughter, Courtney Cavanaugh, are both College of Arts and Architecture alumni who frequently return to Happy Valley to volunteer with alumni groups.

Dave graduated in 1976 with a degree in landscape architecture while Courtney chose a different path within the college, graduating in 2009 with a degree in stage management.

“I never felt pressured to go there [Penn State],” Courtney said, “but we went for a visit…and I just had this feeling that this is where I wanted to be.”

Dave said he knew he wanted to be a landscape architect since he was in high school, which is what drew him to the A&A family, but for Courtney the decision did not come as easily.

“I was between physical therapy and stage management,” Courtney said. “It was the small, tight community that is the College of Arts and Architecture that drew me in…and the faculty was really invested in you, which I appreciate.”

The Cavanaughs have both witnessed the power of the Penn State alumni network first-hand.

Dave chaired the Arts and Architecture Alumni Society Board and was on the Philanthropic Council, in addition to serving two terms as an elected member of the Penn State Alumni Council. He was named Outstanding Alumni Council Member in 2022.

Courtney followed in her father’s footsteps, creating and serving on the board of the School of Theatre affiliate program group.

However, the alumni network is not the only aspect of Penn State that the Cavanaughs cherish.

“When it snowed, I remember the snowball fights,” Dave said. “We would stand up in those [Sackett Building] windows three stories up and nail people with snowballs.”

Dave now owns his own landscape architecture business, Land Concepts, and spends some of the year in Key West where he and his wife are in the process of starting a Penn State alumni chapter.

Courtney is a senior account manager with Sparks, a global experiential marketing agency in Philadelphia. She works remotely from Washington, D.C., where she is an active member of the Penn State alumni chapter.

Dave and Courtney both express their love for Penn State and urge students and alumni to take advantage of everything Penn State has to offer.

“Enjoy the time you have at Penn State,” Courtney said, “and do as much as you possibly can.”

The College of Arts and Architecture is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2023-24. This story is part of a series highlighting people, places and events in the college’s six-decade history.

Story by Ainsley Spitz