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Saint Mary’s prepares for transition

Angela Saoud | Wednesday, April 28, 2004

On May 15 as Saint Mary’s seniors walk off the College’s campus and onto their futures, another woman will join them. After seven years as president of the College, Marilou Eldred will serve her last official day at commencement before retiring. “The phrase I’ve been telling people is that it’s bittersweet,” Eldred said. “I’m ready to retire. I’m ready to live a more normal life. But, at the same time, it’s very hard to leave Saint Mary’s.” Eldred came to the College in 1997 after 18 years at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., where she served in a variety of administrative roles. Eldred became the 10th president of Saint Mary’s and was the first laywoman to hold the position. Since becoming president, Eldred has worked to maintain the institution’s position as the nation’s premier Catholic women’s college. During her time at Saint Mary’s, Eldred instituted many positive changes for the future. She was particularly instrumental in creating the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership in 2001, the result of a $12 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. In 2000, Eldred helped develop the College’s Master Plan, which calls for many changes to the campus in attempt to fit students’ ever changing needs. Ground-breaking for Dalloway’s coffee house and the Welcome Center took place in spring 2000. In April 2002, construction began on the new Noble Family Dining Hall. Last summer, groundbreaking took place for the first phase of an on-campus student apartment complex that will be occupied by seniors in the fall. Future plans call for the construction of a second phase of the apartments and a state of the art academic building.Through Eldred’s leadership, she has revitalized the relationship between the College and the South Bend community, as well as strengthening ties with Notre Dame and Holy Cross.Eldred publicly announced her retirement in March 2003, but was asked to stay on until a successor was named. Vice president and associate provost of Notre Dame Carol Mooney was chosen Dec. 26. She will begin her tenure as president June 1. Though Eldred has enjoyed her time at Saint Mary’s, she is ready for change, she said.”My husband Don and I are going to move back to St. Paul, where I am going to take some time off,” Eldred said. “And then, I hope to get involved with some volunteer work.” Over the course of seven years, Eldred has made and will take many memorable moments with her. “Some of my fondest memories from campus are generally all of my interactions with students,” Eldred said. “Other highlights for me include learning about faculty accomplishments, seeing the strong intellectual life that characterizes Saint Mary’s and meeting so many of the wonderful alumnae from here.”Although it is hard to leave, Eldred said she is excited about Mooney coming in. “If I were to give her [Mooney] some advice, it would be to listen when you first come in to what everyone has to say,” Eldred said. “But don’t respond to all that advice. Also, take the time to set your priorities and to learn the culture of the College. It truly is a wonderful place to be.”Sara Mahoney, student trustee in 2003-04, believes Eldred did an outstanding job during her time at Saint Mary’s. “Dr. Eldred leaves an extraordinary legacy to Saint Mary’s,” Mahoney said. “She has been the catalyst of the Master Plan as well as the Strategic Plan. Her vision of where Saint Mary’s can be in the future is inspiring to all of us here at Saint Mary’s.”Mahoney said it was her presence around campus that students recognized and appreciated. “She takes the time to talk to students in the hall and always has a welcoming attitude,” Mahoney said. “She exudes the mission of Saint Mary’s wherever she goes and can articulate it quickly and concisely. We want to thank Dr. Eldred for her commitment to each Saint Mary’s student and wish her the best in her retirement.”From her final weeks as president, Eldred will take with her a range of accomplishments and memories. “This is truly an amazing and wonderful place,” Eldred said. “I hope that I’ve made it a better place.”