Alumnae Spotlight: Cathy MacFarlane ’72

Alumnae Spotlight: Cathy MacFarlane, Class of 1972

Cathy was the Director of Public Affairs at the Federal Trade Commission until April 2021. The FTC is the nation’s primary consumer and antitrust law enforcer. She spends her days creating and executing communication campaigns to promote the Commission’s cases and work.  

When Cathy grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, there were few professionals on which to model her future. Teachers and nurses were the accepted professions for women. After getting her Master’s degree at Georgetown University, Cathy did try teaching only to find it was not for her. Her father had spent his life in the FBI so she began to work there. The work was interesting but she was spending most of her days analyzing documents. By chance one day she met a woman who connected her to public affairs and it was to be her home for the next 30 years at various government agencies and private corporations.  

In 2004, she went before a Senate Committee and was confirmed as Assistant Secretary, Public Affairs, of HUD.  The process was terrifying at the time but “fun to look back on."

Throughout her career, she has learned equally from good times as well as the bad. From her own experience she learned what has been motivating for her to make her work interesting as well   motivating for those with whom she works.

What is your favorite Holy Child memory?

"I came to Holy Child as a junior. My FBI dad was transferred from NY to Washington. Aside from being terrified to make all new friends at the self-conscious age of 16, my parents only considered private schools in contrast to the coed one I had attended my first two years. At the first school I interviewed, I was informed by the Head that I was welcome, and they would do a great deal for me. At the end of the interview at Holy Child, the Sister with whom I interviewed took my hand and hoped I would choose the school because she knew I would be an amazing asset to the school. I felt welcome immediately. Holy Child became one of the most positively impactful times of my life."

What would be a good course for all to take to prepare themselves for life ahead?

Nothing quite prepares you for life! Learning from experiences and observing and committing to memory examples of people in our life that seem to navigate well is critical along the way. But, to answer the question, I think being able to understand people and what may motivate their behavior is a good start. For that I would advise a general psychology course. Even having an insight into birth order and its impact on personality helps when you are in a work environment either managing up or managing others."

Do you ever have time to volunteer and if so, what do you like to do?

"I’ve made it a point to make time to volunteer. Sure, it would be nice to put my feet up and read a book after a long day, but I know I’m fortunate and want to share what gifts I have to help others. At various stages in my life I’ve consistently volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, a very special and worthy organization in my view, and on various not for profit boards. I even was fortunate to spend time on the Holy Child Board in the 90’s. Currently, I’m a member of a group called Lasagna Love. Volunteers make lasagnas for those with food insecurity and deliver it to their homes."

Is there anything you would like to accomplish in the next five years?  

"I’m about to complete a 40+ year career in public relations and terribly excited and terrified about the lack of structure my days will have. Topping my list of goals for the future are to help guide my five nieces and nephews in their college search and essay writing. With a lifetime of writing and editing for audiences under my belt, I’m eager to help them craft their essays to clearly and creatively convey their thoughts."

If you have time for a hobby, what is it?  

"I love photography, hiking and golf and look forward to getting proficient at all of them. I’m also an avid reader and am fascinated by living in other countries for 4-6 weeks at a time to really experience the culture so I’m hoping to do all of them in my new free time."

Did you have a favorite event of the Holy Child year?  

"The Ring Ceremony senior year and Graduation when we all wore the exact same dress and sang “Teach Your Children” stand out as being the most special days. I still have that photo of my friends and me holding our hands out in a circle to show off our rings!"

Did you participate in sports and which was your favorite one?  

"Field hockey is a vivid memory, mostly because of the black and blue shins I sported most of the season, but my favorite was tennis"

What would you like to say to a senior as she graduates in June and heads off to college?  

"Be confident, be observant, and most importantly, be humble and kind."


Written by: Sister Connie Craig

Do you know of a Holy Child alumna with an interesting career, service project, or hobby that we should spotlight? Send suggestions to!