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Saint Mary’s president speaks on coeducation

Jillian Barwick and Kaitlyn Rabach | Friday, March 1, 2013

Editor’s note: This is the last of a five-day series discussing the role of women at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, in honor of the 40th anniversary of coeducation at the University this year.


As an educated woman with a degree in English Literature from Saint Mary’s College and a law degree from the University of Notre Dame, Carol Ann Mooney is a woman who has seen both sides of the street – the street known as State Route 933. 

Mooney, the current Saint Mary’s president, graduated from the College in the spring of 1972 in the midst of the Vietnam War and during the time Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s considered and rejected a merger of the two schools.

“The non-merger was not a big deal to me. I did not come to Saint Mary’s under the assumption I would be receiving a Notre Dame degree,” Mooney said. “We finished in the spring of ’72 and none of my classmates were affected by the merger and none of my friends transferred over. To be honest, I was more worried about international politics at the time.”

Even though she was not concerned about the potential merger, Mooney made sure to take full advantage of the resources offered on both campuses.

“Even during my undergrad I felt as though I was a part of both schools. My study abroad program in France was a Notre Dame program. At that time I was even issued a Notre Dame ID,” Mooney said. “During my time at Saint Mary’s I used the Notre Dame library quite a bit and I went to the Huddle in La Fortune. At that time the co-exchange was also available so I could take class over there and I did.”

While the non-merger may have not affected Mooney, some of her fellow Belles did find conflict in the matter.

“We finished the year the merger was supposed to happen,” she said. “There were divisions of females that were pleased it was called off and others that were furious.”

When her undergraduate years were finished, Mooney took the trip across the street to Notre Dame Law School, where she graduated first in her class in 1977. During her time there, she found it more difficult to travel back to Saint Mary’s.

“I had no time in law school,” she said. “I only had time for work.”

After working in Washington, D.C., as an associate attorney for a the law firm Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue, Mooney returned to South Bend to serve as the Notre Dame vice president and associate provost from 1994 till 2004.

“When I was a faculty member at Notre Dame I used to come over [to Saint Mary’s] and use the library because it is so quiet,” she said. “[At Notre Dame], I was often one of the few women in the room and here there are few men in the room.”

In June 2004, Mooney became the College’s first lay alumna president. Throughout her term, she has continued to stress the importance of single-sex and faith-based education.

“I still think there is an important role from all-women’s education. For me, I am dedicated to faith based education,” Mooney said. “I am really not interested in higher education where faith is not an element. I really like being in a place where faith and morals are spoken about openly.”

Mooney’s deep roots at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s have allowed her to acquire knowledge from both sides of the street. She said she has gained great friendships and excellent professional relationships with “people from both sides of the road.”

“I am rarely on the Notre Dame campus these days, but the relationships continue,” Mooney said. “At this point, we are much more like friendly neighbors. Obviously when the merger was being talked about there was constant communication. Now, we have good relationships and talk when we need to.”

Mooney, who has co-authored two books, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and serves on a number of boards, said she will always continue to cherish both educations she received from Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame.

“We are like neighbors that share a driveway,” she said.