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Saint Mary’s set to inaugurate Mooney

Nicole Zook | Friday, January 14, 2005

If she is under any stress as her big day approaches, Carol Mooney does not show it.

Sitting in the Sister Madeleva room in LeMans Hall, she gracefully shared answers and smiles with journalists from several television stations and newspapers Thursday, revealing no sign of strain regarding her inauguration as the eleventh president of Saint Mary’s College this weekend.

“I am thrilled,” she said. “It’s a privilege, and it’s humbling – but I couldn’t be happier.”

Mooney, a 1972 graduate of the College and 1977 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School, was a law professor at Notre Dame before serving as a Notre Dame vice president and associate provost. Her formal inauguration into her role as the first lay alumna president at Saint Mary’s will take place tomorrow and Sunday.

“In one sense a transition occurred last spring, when I was trying to do one and a half jobs,” she said. “Notre Dame was wonderful to me. I got many opportunities, but I’ve never had a second glance back. … It was hard to leave, but I’ve not had a moment’s regret about doing so.”

Mooney said that her transition from Notre Dame to Saint Mary’s will hold some differences, the most marked being the smaller size of the College compared to the University.

“The biggest difference is just the size of the two institutions,” she said. “It gives me the opportunity, I hope, to get to know most people at Saint Mary’s. That’s just not really possible at Notre Dame.”

Mooney will be working with both a smaller student population and fewer staff members than in her former role at Notre Dame, which she said will lead to closer relationships. She looks forward to that aspect of her future at Saint Mary’s.

“A person has a lot of constituencies to pay attention to,” Mooney said. “Students, faculty, parents, alumni, donors, benefactors – even the general community. And I find that fun, a challenge.”

Mooney has already begun to solve her challenge in the short months she has been working at Saint Mary’s. She said she works well with the presidential staff and has reached out to students throughout first semester. In the fall, she invited each residence hall to an open tea or dessert night.

“I decided that was a good way to try to get out into each of the residence halls, so I went there and whoever wanted to show up showed up,” Mooney said. “I’ve been to a number of events – I’ve been to a basketball game [this winter], and I love having students stop and see me. I’ll be at the dance Sunday night. I’m looking forward to that.”

The “Now and Then”-themed event was planned by students in honor of Mooney’s time as a Saint Mary’s student herself. She looks fondly on her years as an undergraduate student, when she loved “my courses and my friends.”

“I thought I got an absolutely first-rate education here,” Mooney said. “I had great courses here. I was an English literature major and I worked really hard here.”

Mooney will be personally handing out raffle prizes and getting to know students who attend the dance. She also said she is eager for today’s academic symposium, which she herself insisted on.

“I wanted to showcase the academic excellence at Saint Mary’s, so we’re having two outside speakers, four Saint Mary’s faculty, and two students are speaking,” she said. “I’m very excited about that.”

However, Mooney seemed most animated about the ceremony Saturday afternoon.

“I think what I’m most looking forward to is actually the installation ceremony itself,” she said. “It’s kind of like a wedding ceremony. I imagine I will cry. I cried all the way through my wedding vows, and there’s a bunch of ‘I do’s’ here, and I probably will start crying again. And that’s okay.”

Mooney said her entire family will be attending, including her husband and four daughters ranging in age from 22 to 26, all of whom attended Notre Dame. The two youngest daughters are still students there, and will make the trek across the street to celebrate with their mother. Also attending will be dignitaries and presidents from several other colleges, and Saint Mary’s classmates Mooney invited from all over the United States.

“I really wanted to share this with all of them,” she said. “It’s just great.”

Despite the many activities of the weekend and the hectic mood on campus, Mooney remains calm and pleased with her role at her former and future College.

“I’m really happy to be here,” she said.