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Alumni Linda Daly and Jackie Cirillo Meisenberg

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Linda Daly and Jackie Cirillo Meisenberg

For Linda Daly and Jackie Cirillo Meisenberg, decades of friendship began with a horrendous haircut. The year was 1984. Linda was a freshman and Jackie a sophomore at American University, both living on the third floor of Hughes Hall.

Jackie had just gotten what she calls a "part mullet, part punk rock" fiasco of a haircut, with a perm added in for good measure. She stood in front of the mirror of the third-floor bathroom, screaming, "Can you believe how horrible my hair looks?" Linda thought it looked a little orange, but what she said was, "It's not so bad." In that moment of kindness, a deep and lasting friendship was born.

Daly and Cirillo Meisenberg soon became roommates, sharing an off-campus apartment with another Hughes friend, Linda Lupo Rodriguez.

Daly graduated in 1990 from the College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in literature, and Cirillo Meisenberg in 1987 from the School of Communication. Today, they are still best friends who text every day, talk every few weeks, and see each other once or twice a year. And both are deeply involved with the College of Arts and Sciences.

Life took them to separate coasts and careers after graduation. Daly went west to Los Angeles, where she taught children with learning disabilities. She was also a freelance writer, and worked with non-profit and international relief organizations. In 2014, she published her first book, The Last Pilgrimage: My Mother's Life and Our Journey to Saying Goodbye, a moving chronicle of her mother's battle with pancreatic cancer.

Cirillo Meisenberg launched an advertising career in New York until her daughter Hannah was born. She is currently on the advisory board for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Westchester County.

As the years passed, both decided to renew their relationship with their alma mater. Cirillo Meisenberg says she "fell in love with it all over again." The love was catching: her daughter (and Linda's god- daughter) Hannah enrolled in the College, earning a degree in art history in 2015. She now works at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

Today, both women contribute significantly to AU students through their support of scholarship and the Academic Support and Access Center, which helps students succeed. Daly says, "School was extremely difficult for me. But AU was extremely supportive when I needed help. I will always be grateful." Cirillo Meisenberg is also a founding co-chair of the Legacy Alumni Network, along with their third roommate, Linda Lupo Rodriguez.

AU's academic services were also of help to Cirillo Meisenberg's daughter Hannah. "Our gift to CAS," Cirillo Meisenberg says, "is a thank you to its professors and administration for providing not only Hannah, but all of its students, the opportunity to pursue their academic passions."

Both women are also members of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council, parents and alumni who provide guidance on College initiatives.

When the two friends look back on their college years, they are thankful. "I met my best friend there," says Daly. Cirillo Meisenberg says, "As I get older, it becomes more and more apparent that AU was one of the most important experiences of my life. It's where I met my best friend Linda."