Get to know the CDH Admissions Team with a Q and A

Greta Cunningham ‘23, Communications Apprentice
July 28, 2022

The Cretin-Derham Hall admissions team is made up of Sandy Cullen and Sean Van Gemert ’96. Together, they make the process of choosing and learning about CDH welcoming, clear, and comfortable. From helping incoming students navigate extracurriculars, to breaking down scholarship and financial aid information, our admissions team is focused on finding the best fit for your student by getting to know your family. Now it’s your turn to learn a little more about them! 

How did you come to work at CDH?

Cullen: My youngest daughter was in 10th grade at CDH, and I was looking for a job. I read about the position on the CDH website and called Mary King (former assistant to President Frank Miley). After learning about the job, I thought it was a perfect fit. That was 10 years ago!

Van Gemert: My family has a long history at CDH. My dad was a ’68 Cretin grad, and I was a ’96 CDH grad. Since I graduated from CDH, I've coached football and baseball off and on for many years. I've also had various roles with alumni relations. I always wanted to come back to CDH full time and serve our community.

What do you love about CDH?

Cullen: Our community and tradition of excellence. Plus, I always say it's the students at CDH that make us so great.

Van Gemert: The PEOPLE, the mission of the school, the shared bond among many stakeholders, the caring teachers, the extracurricular involvement by our students, and the history and tradition.

What is your academic background?

Cullen: I have a B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Special Education and Elementary Education

Van Gemert: My background is in business. I have a BBA from the Grainger School of Business at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and an MBA from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota.

What is your professional background?

Cullen: After teaching for 5 years, I decided to try something new, so I worked for two different travel/marketing firms planning incentive travel programs for large companies.

Van Gemert: I worked in the financial services industry for 20 years prior to coming to CDH.

What is your favorite part of working in admissions?

Cullen: There is such a variety in this office. We have a great team, and I enjoy working with the families and students to educate them on the many opportunities CDH provides. We are a busy office, and I like it that way. It has also been such a joy to see the incoming 9th graders mature to graduating seniors.

Van Gemert: I love the relationships built with prospective CDH families and helping them become a part of our great community.

What advice would you give to an incoming student?

Cullen: I would advise them to try new things, get involved as much as possible and experience high school to the fullest.

Van Gemert: Get involved right away in something outside of the classroom. Focus on starting strong academically as the curriculum only becomes more challenging later.

What is a favorite memory from your high school years?

Cullen: I loved high school. We had a Social and Family Living class senior year and we learned about life; parenting, household budgets, careers etc. But, my favorite part about that class was the "Warm Fuzzies.” Each week you could write a warm fuzzie - something positive -  to another classmate on a gold piece of paper. If you noticed them doing good deeds or if you knew they aced a test, you would congratulate them. It could be anything complimentary or positive. We would pass these out on Fridays. We all looked forward to getting a warm fuzzie. I held on to mine for years.

Van Gemert: Winning the State Baseball Championship my senior year in 1996 was a special memory from my time at CDH. 

What would have been your superlative in high school?

Cullen: Friend to All

Van Gemert: Most Likely to Win an Eating Contest

Tell us about your family:

Cullen: I'm married to Tom, a Cretin graduate, and we have five daughters who all graduated from CDH. Three of our daughters are married, and we have three grandsons. We also have a dog named Finnegan.

Van Gemert: My wife Shannon and I met in Madison, WI. She was born in Madison, but grew up in Southwest Florida. After completing her Masters in Real Estate at UW-Madison, she moved to St. Paul, and we've been together ever since. She now is a Managing Director and Partner at Eagle Ridge Partners, a local commercial real estate investment firm. My son Jack is an 8th grader at Nativity and will soon be here at CDH. My daughter is a 6th grader at Nativity. We also have a 7-year-old chocolate lab named Emmett.

What is your favorite restaurant?

Cullen: I loved the Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, but it has now closed. Another favorite of mine is the Parlour Bar in Minneapolis. They have great burgers.

Van Gemert: My favorite is JD Hoyt's in Minneapolis. 

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Cullen: A sales person

Van Gemert: Firefighter

What's your go-to coffee order?

Cullen: I'm an at-home black coffee drinker. Nothing fancy for me, but I do like Caribou's Chai tea.

Van Gemert: In the winter, I like a medium dark roast with a splash of cream. In the summer, I order it iced.

What’s a fun fact about you?

Cullen: I have competed in three triathlons in the last 5 years.

Van Gemert: I fell out of a moving car when I was five. Seat belts weren't all that popular in 1982.

This or That?

Sandy Cullen: 

Tea or coffee? Coffee

Take out or dine-in? Dine-in

Pancakes or waffles? Pancakes

Air travel or road trip? Air travel

Horror or comedy? Comedy 

Sean Van Gemert: 

TV or movies? TV

Cats or dogs? Dogs 

Summer or winter? Summer 

Doing the dishes or doing the laundry? Doing the dishes

Cake or pie? Pie


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