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President Mooney leaves 12-year legacy

| Monday, February 22, 2016

LegacyLauren Weldon

During her her 12-year presidency, President Carol Ann Mooney accomplished many things, including the successful capital campaign “Faith Always, Action Now,” launching graduate programs, increasing diversity, the Voices of Young Catholic Women project, the Presidential Taskforce on Sexual Assault and many other projects and initiatives.

Mooney said she has always loved to interact with students since taking office June 1, 2004.

“It’s certainly the students I will miss the most,” she said. “I only get to know a few really well, but I have the opportunity to interact with quite a few, and what I really enjoy is seeing the people they become at the end of their four years here. Whatever else we do, if at the end of four years they are people we’re proud of, then everything is worth it.”

She said she is continuously impressed not just by the students’ accomplishments and confidence, but their goodness and sense of purpose. “It feeds my soul,” she said.

When the College launched the capital campaign, “Faith Always, Action Now,” in 2008, the recession wasn’t fully realized. Mooney said many doubted that the College would achieve her ambitious goal of $80 million, but the campaign concluded in February 2015 after surpassing the initial goal and raising $105 million, making it the most successful fundraising campaign in the College’s 171-year history.

Mooney said it is in the College’s DNA to ignore obstacles and the success of the campaign is a tribute to the great education at Saint Mary’s.

“The campaign was a success because Saint Mary’s is a good place because it does good work and its needs to continue,” she said.

The campaign wasn’t the success of one person, she said, but it was about getting the word about Saint Mary’s out and showing people what the students, alumnae, faculty and administration are doing to make a difference in the world.

She cited historic women of the College and their can-do attitudes as her inspiration.

“Mother Pauline built Le Mans Hall when she didn’t know where the money was going to come from,” Mooney said. “She got a fair amount of grief from other Sisters in the congregation for moving forward on such a huge project, but she did it anyway.

“Sister Madeleva Wolff started the school of sacred theology when there was no place in the world where women or even laymen could do advanced study in Catholic theology.”

Renovations to Madeleva Hall were completed early in her presidency and the campus map looks different than it did when she took office in 2004. Mooney led fundraising and oversaw the completion of Spes Unica Hall in 2008, as well as the beginning of renovation to Purcell Athletic Fields, Angela Athletic Facility and Science Hall.

There are lots of people today who keep declaring the end of women’s colleges, but nobody at Saint Mary’s is thinking that, she said.

“There’s a sense here that if it needs to be done, let’s get on with it and do it,” she said. While it is important to get things done, Mooney said she hopes members of the College community will be inspired by her own pride for the College.

“What I hope has been the result of my presidency is a renewed confidence in Saint Mary’s, a renewed pride.”

New graduate programs align with both the mission of the Sisters and the College are part of that renewed pride.

“Having the kind of graduate programs that we have started fits with our emphasis on teaching and fits with what we’ve learned from the Sisters, to see what the current needs are  and then try to meet them.”

The Sisters of the Holy Cross have had a deep impact on Mooney, and she said they inspire her to live out her faith each day.

“Working with the Sisters has been a real privilege. My family has worshipped at the Church of Loretto for years before I became president.”

The hospitality of the Sisters has very important in both her personal life and her professional life at the College. “I really admire the Sisters. I think what they exude is a real sense that they see the face of God in every single human being,” she said.

Like the Sisters, Mooney believes in the impact of diversity of ideas and experiences at the College. When she became president racial and ethnic diversity was 9.1 percent and when measured in 2015, it increased to 17 percent.

“The church is universal, embracing people from all cultures and races,” Mooney said. “As an educational institution, we need the richest possible classroom conversations, and what I’ve emphasized is racial and ethnic diversity because those are still markers in our society for different lived experience.

“Having students with a variety of lived experiences in the classroom enriches the education for every single student in that classroom,” she said. “It makes it a more vibrant intellectual community, and all of our students deserve that.”

The Voices of Young Women Project was an initiative Campus Ministry launched nationally in September 2014 with the support of the College’s Division for Mission. Campus Ministry invited millennial women to write letters to Pope Francis expressing their love for the Catholic tradition and sharing ideas that could contribute to the Church’s outreach to young women and support them in meeting today’s challenges.

Mooney, along with her husband George Efta and two students, Grace Urankar ’14 and Kristen Millar ‘15 traveled to Rome to deliver the more than 200 letters written by Saint Mary’s students and women across the country.

Carrying the letters across the globe was the most impactful part of the experience, Mooney said.

“Meeting the Pope was wonderful, but carrying those letters where young women had poured their hearts out to the Pope was what was most powerful to me, and the hope that what those women had to say will help form our Church so that it better serves everybody, that was the real privilege.”

She further described the experience that built her faith in both the College and in God.

“It was one of those moments where I thought Saint Mary’s gave me the privilege of doing this and now I get to keep telling people about it. So what does it do for my faith? It calls on me. Sometimes it’s easy to respond to that and other times it’s not.”

During her presidency, Mooney has had many opportunities to travel around the U.S. to meet with alumnae, donors and important Catholic leaders, including meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Washington DC and traveling to Rome for the beatification of Father Basil Moreau.

Regarding the Presidential Taskforce on Sexual Assault, Mooney said the group will meet to discuss the findings of the Campus Climate Survey that was sent out earlier in the semester and plan next steps for education and prevention of sexual assault.

A Saint Mary’s woman to her core, Mooney said she’s working through feelings of leaving the College.

“I’ve told a lot of seniors that I will be as much as wreck on commencement day as they will be.

“I know intellectually — and probably in my gut — that it’s time for me to go,” Mooney said. “It’s a good time at the College that all of our projects will be completed. We did our accreditation this fall, finished the campaign, we’re coming to the end of a strategic planning period. So I know it’s the right time, but I feel so connected here. It’s going to be hard to step aside, but I will.”

Mooney and Efta have lived in South Bend for more than 36 years and she plans to stay in the area, except for trips to spend more time with her three grandchildren and two to be born in spring or summer.

“I’ve lived on the fringes of Saint Mary’s pretty much my whole life. It’s turning into a long goodbye, but I’m trying to find the pleasure in each day.”

Her contract ends May 31, and president-elect Jan Cervelli will take over June 1. Though she plans to distance herself from the College, she said she’ll be back for her 45th reunion in June 2017.

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About Haleigh Ehmsen

A senior at Saint Mary's, Haleigh is majoring in Communication Studies and English Literature & Writing. She serves as the Saint Mary's editor and enjoys coffee, guacamole and good books.

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