Lisette McSoud Mondello ’78
A Veteran Mom

By Donna Parker

She’s in a position of power at the second-largest cabinet agency in the U.S. government, but what really puts a smile on her face is hearing the word, “Mom!” 

It’s no surprise then, that Lisette McSoud Mondello ’78 was thrilled when her second-grade son, Matthew, led the Pledge of Allegiance at her swearing-in ceremony as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veteran Affairs.  The title is a mouthful – but not intimidating to Matthew, who only six years old at the time, directed 400 politically renowned attendees in the Pledge.

“Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was there, along with numerous Washington luminaries, but Matthew walked right up to the small stand microphone with all those people watching and started reciting the Pledge.  He’d been practicing all day!” says Lisette proudly.

Lisette, who was nominated by President George W. Bush to the Board of Trustees for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, has also served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education (where she was instrumental in the No Child Left Behind Act), as well as Director of Communications for Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY).

“Trinity really did prepare me for all of my experiences.  So much of your career involves relationships and all sorts of indefinable skills.  My alma mater provided me with an excellent foundation, and it’s something of which I’m extremely proud.”

Lisette says the moment she stepped on campus, she felt the welcoming atmosphere and perceived Trinity as a “warm and welcoming” place.  So she gave up her scholarships at Southern Methodist University and Northwestern to earn her degree under the tutelage of professors such as Dave Burkett in journalism.

“There were a slew of typewriters in his room and he rattled off a story concept that we had to type and edit in class…on the spot,” recalls Lisette.  “If you made mistakes, you got an instant “F” so we all came out better and faster writers.  To this day, I am compulsive about proper grammar with NO TYPOS!” she exclaims.

When she wasn’t sweating out her journalism courses, Lisette enjoyed the bean and cheese nachos at Mi Tierra and frequented the infamous Bombay Bicycle Club, prompting her dad to think she’d taken up cycling as a hobby.

Now, she spends any spare time with her attorney husband, Joe, and their young son, visiting with neighbors, watching sports, and living a “typical family life.”

As typical as you can get when you’re managing policy for a mere 235,000 employees, 150 major medical centers, and 900 outpatient VA clinics.

This Madame Secretary is enjoying life, enjoying her achievements but most of all, loving just being a mom.