NOTRE DAME, Indiana (February 12, 2020) — The Board of Trustees at Saint Mary’s College is pleased to announce that Dr. Katie Conboy has been selected as the 14th president of the 176 year-old Catholic women’s liberal arts college.
The announcement was made at a ceremony in Spes Unica Hall on the college campus earlier today, in front of a gathering of students, faculty, staff, trustees, Sisters of the Holy Cross, and invited guests. Hundreds of alumnae and study abroad students also watched the event via livestream. Conboy succeeds Dr. Nancy Nekvasil, who has served as Interim President since 2018.
Conboy is Provost and Senior Vice President at Simmons University, a women’s college in Boston, a position she’s held since 2013. Prior to Simmons, she was at Stonehill College, a Holy Cross institution in North Easton, Massachusetts, where she served first as a professor of English literature and then as Provost. Conboy earned her PhD in English literature from the University of Notre Dame in 1986, and her undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas in 1981.
Conboy expressed her enthusiasm to join the campus community in remarks she directed to the students, faculty, staff, and guests who gathered in Decio Commons. As the future president of Saint Mary’s, Conboy will carry on the mission of providing undergraduate women with a strong, liberal arts education and the opportunity to advance their education in a growing number of co-educational graduate programs as well. The College currently has a total enrollment of over 1,500 students and an employee base of 538 faculty, administrators, and staff.
When asked how she feels about becoming the 14th president of the College, Conboy replied, “I am so excited to become part of a college that shares so many of my values and priorities: educating the whole person, promoting an open-hearted and inclusive community, and advancing women. I believe Saint Mary’s is a place that changes lives — and can therefore change the world, one person at a time. I want to be part of that transformational mission.
“Having grown up in an all-girl family, and having three daughters, I have learned that there is much to be celebrated about the differences between women,” she continued. “Our daughters taught us on a daily basis that their experiences of the world, their schools, their peer groups, even their family were different. Each of them was completely herself, deserving to be seen on her own terms. Every girl or woman does not have the same experience, even of gender. I suspect I’ll find a great diversity of women in the Saint Mary’s student body, and I look forward to accompanying them on their academic journeys.”
After interviewing several finalists who were recommended by a search committee, Conboy emerged as the clear choice of the Board. The 16-member search committee was made up of trustees, faculty, staff, a student representative, a parent representative, and several alumnae. They worked in collaboration with a national search firm, WittKieffer, to find a candidate dedicated to the Saint Mary’s mission who would define a clear vision for the College.
“They were asked to locate a candidate with deep experience with Catholic higher education, the liberal arts and women’s colleges,” said Gretchen Flicker ’93, chair of the Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees. “Maureen Smith, who led the search committee along with vice chair Donald Fischer and former vice chair Patricia Purcell, had a diverse pool of candidates interested in this position; many were simply outstanding. They recommended to the Board a candidate who is in line with our vision and is a strong institutional leader. (Dr. Conboy) is exemplary and hits every mark. I’m grateful for their discernment, and for bringing to us this incredibly gifted, intelligent, and collaborative president elect.”
Flicker highlighted the depth of Conboy’s experience with institutional strategic management and large budget oversight. As Provost at Simmons, Conboy led the process to redesign the academic structure of the university, creating four new interdisciplinary colleges and hiring four new deans for those colleges. She oversaw the implementation of two signature graduate degrees in an online format — Master of Social Work, and Master of Science in Nursing — which resulted in a substantial increase in enrollment and new revenue. She also worked to launch four additional online professional masters degrees. As a fundraiser, Conboy helped bring to completion a successful $100 million advancement campaign, finalizing at $16 million over goal. While at Stonehill as Provost, she collaborated on the campaign that raised $55 million, with the centerpiece being a new science center.
As a faculty member, Conboy was an award-winning teacher and an active scholar. She co-edited the book Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory (Columbia University Press, 1997), and is the author of scholarly articles on British and American fiction, Irish literature and feminist theory. As an administrator, she has continued to be a life-long learner, completing the Advanced Management Program at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the Non-Profit Financial Stewardship Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Saint Mary’s alumna and President of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister Veronique Wiedower, CSC, welcomed Conboy on behalf of the congregation.
“As a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the College has worked closely with us to ensure its continued fidelity to the mission of this pioneering educational institution begun 175 years ago,” Sister Veronique said. “Dr. Conboy, welcome to this special place where you now are called to build on the strong and visionary leadership that has marked the College and made it a place of promise and discovery for so many. As President of the Sisters, it is my honor to extend a welcome to you, and promise my support and encouragement as you begin to deepen your passion and commitment to education in leading Saint Mary’s and this civic community.”
Conboy will begin her role as President on June 1, 2020. She is married to Dr. Thomas O’Grady, who recently retired after a 35-year career on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where he was a professor of English, Director of the Irish Studies program, and a member of the Creative Writing faculty. They have three grown daughters: Mairéad, Caitríona, and Siobhán.
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About Saint Mary's College
Celebrating over 175 years of empowering women to make a difference in the world, Saint Mary’s College is recognized as a pioneer and continued force in the education of women. A Catholic, liberal arts institution in Notre Dame, Indiana, the College offers more than 50 undergraduate academic programs and also offers co-educational master’s degrees.
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