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Transition at Saint Mary’s

Angela Saoud | Thursday, May 13, 2004

After seven years as the president of Saint Mary’s, Marilou Eldred will retire, serving her last official day at commencement on Saturday. “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 Saint Mary’s position as the nation’s premier Catholic women’s college. In 1998, Eldred was greeted with both criticism and congratulations for two separate events. During Feb. 1998, Eldred denied club status to The Alliance, a group for lesbian, bisexual and questioning women. Numerous students staged protests and sit ins in Eldred’s office for the decision. But in March 1998, Eldred released plans for groundbreaking on a new dining hall, bookstore and coffee house. In 2000 and 2001 Eldred instituted many positive changes for the College. She was instrumental in creating the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership, which was made through a $12 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. Eldred also helped develop the College’s Master Plan, which calls for many changes to the campus to fit the students’ ever changing needs. Ground-breaking for Dalloway’s Coffee House and the Welcome Center took place in spring 2000. During Jan-uary 2001, Eldred announced the College’s production of the Vagina Monologues would be cancelled. In February 2001, students performed the Vagina Mono-logues despite the cancellation, with over 150 in attendance. Last summer, groundbreaking took place for the on-campus student apartments phase one, which will be lived in by seniors next fall. Future plans call for the construction of the second phase of the on-campus apartments and the building of a new academic building.Through Eldred’s leadership, she has revitalized the relationship between the College and the South Bend community, as well as strengthened ties the College has with Notre Dame and Holy Cross.Eldred announced her retirement in March 2003, but was asked to stay on until a successor was named. On Dec. 26, Carol Mooney, a vice president and associate provost at Notre Dame, was chosen. She will begin as the College president on June 1. Though Eldred has enjoyed her time at Saint Mary’s, she is ready for a 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.” 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.”Junior Teresa Healy has mixed emotions on the presidential changes.”It’s tough, because for the past three years, I’ve watched Eldred do wonderful things for the College, and now during my senior year, there will be someone else filling that place,” Healy said. “But at the same time, I’ve seen and heard wonderful things about Carol Mooney, and I think she is the perfect person to keep things moving in the right direction.”On May 15, Eldred will take her wide range of accomplishments and the memories she has made and leave the campus in someone else’s hands. “This is truly an amazing and wonderful place,” Eldred said. “I hope that I’ve made it a better place.”