Bishop Zubik, members of the Religious Sisters of Mercy,
Chairperson Michele Atkins and members of the Board of Trustees,
esteemed members of the platform party, Sr. Maureen Fay, delegates
of universities and colleges, distinguished guests and friends of
the University, students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Friends and
I am honored and humbled to stand before you today as the
10th President of Carlow University and accept the
charge to lead this great institution. I would like to begin by
briefly expressing my deep thanks to all of you who are here
First, thank you, Bishop Zubick for your presence. Your
con-celebration of the inauguration mass yesterday with my former
president and mentor Fr. Jonathan DeFelice and his reflections were
very meaningful to me and to Fr. Dennis Holtschneider
for your excellent remarks today — these all show the centrality of
our Catholic identity and mission.
We also are deeply honored to have members of the Religious
Sisters of Mercy with us today to share in this inaugural
celebration. Without them, there would be no Carlow University. Would everyone please join me in recognizing the Sisters who
helped create this university?
I would like to express my deep appreciation to the former
presidents, Dr. Mary Hines, my predecessor, Sr. Grace Ann Geibel
and Sr. Jane Scully, who are here today, and Sr. Marylouise
Fennell, who was not able to attend. We are all grateful to you for
your commitment in leading such a vibrant university.
I want to especially thank the faculty, staff and students who
are Carlow University. The dedication and commitment I see from
faculty and staff reaffirms what a special place this is and how
blessed I am to lead this university.
To the students — every day I am reminded of what we are here
for — and it is you — and your commitment to learning that makes
Carlow what it is.
A special thanks to my family — sons Matthew, Patrick, and
Christopher and my daughter Katie, their spouses Shelly, Kathy, Samantha, and Brad, along with my sisters, their husbands, and
numerous friends who are here to celebrate with me. Your support
has meant a great deal to me throughout my journey that brings me
There are three others who are here in spirit only but I know
are smiling down today on this event. My departed husband
Andy and my parents were staunch supporters of me throughout my
life — always providing counsel, support, and encouragement.
I, too, like many of our students, was a first generation
college student, and never would have dreamed that I would become a
University President. But it was important to my parents to have
their four daughters attend college and they sacrificed to make it
This inauguration not only has deep meaning for me personally,
but also for the University as a pivotal event in its history. It
is a time to look back at the past accomplishments, take review of
where we are, and look forward to a new path to an inspiring
Carlow University, formerly Mt. Mercy College, would not be here
today without the courage and bold action of its founders. I'd like
to tell you a brief story of the founding of this university that
has stood the test of time over the past 85 years but has striking
In 1929, when Mount Mercy opened its doors, it was at the height
of the Great Depression, resources were scarce and in Pittsburgh,
there was no Catholic College available to women to attend — recent
Catholic immigrants and mill workers had to struggle to make ends
Most people then and today would not even dream of starting a
college with no buildings, a limited faculty, and no endowment -
they would think you were crazy to start a college under such
conditions. Against these great odds, a small band of Sisters
of Mercy established the first Catholic women's institution of
higher learning in the region - with their efforts derailed more
than once. But they were risk takers and life
changers. They pursued doctoral degrees at a time when
it was extremely uncommon for women to do so.
These were women undaunted in their courage to address the
question "what is the next great need?" and they tackled it
head-on. They viewed the education of women to be that important in
the struggle to transform society and address the roots of
poverty. The Pittsburgh Sisters of Mercy have been making
their mark on the city of Pittsburgh ever since Frances Ward and
her companions arrived from Ireland in 1843 — so starting a college
for women 85 years ago was in keeping with a legacy of boldness
and risk taking to address needs in the community.
Over the years the College changed and innovated without
diminishing its values and what they stand for. Having been
dedicated as a woman's-only college, in the 1940s the College
began to admit men to address a need for education for returning
veterans from WWII. The College were leaders in the 1970s and
80s in developing accelerated education programs for adults seeking
higher education and established the Hill College extension site in
a predominantly African-American community that provided education
for women who would not have had that opportunity.
This was before the day of online education, which, no surprise,
this university has embraced to provide the access and flexibility
to individuals and adults returning for education or for career
changes. We come from a legacy of not being afraid to let go and
move on with courage and boldness. Our strong commitment to
educating and empowering women continues to this day while at the
same time we have become co-educational across all our
The hallmarks of a Mercy education are alive and thriving here:
to work to be of service in the world; to transform and empower
individuals to have mastery over their lives through a liberal and
professional education, to have faculty who are scholars doing work
out in the world, with the outcome that our students and alumni
change the world for the better. So, today, at this pivotal
moment as we begin a new chapter in the history of Carlow, I want
to talk to you about transformation and a new path to an inspiring
future for this university which has been and will continue to be
an integral part of the fabric of Pittsburgh.
These are challenging times for higher education and it is a
time of urgency that requires bold leadership and innovation.
Families are concerned about quality, cost, and their ability
to send their child to college. Economic conditions are
influencing the way prospective students view the value of
attending college with worries about high debt load.
As a university with 50% of our students Pell-eligible and a
strong national record of graduating these students with low loan
default rates, we are also concerned about this and committed to
maintaining access for students and supporting them to not only
start their college education but to complete it. Students
and families are also concerned about securing jobs after
graduation. Governing Boards are concerned about net tuition
revenues and financial sustainability of their institutions.
Our world is changing, people are changing with it, switching
careers multiple times. Universities are here to serve society, and
universities must also change. Carlow has proven itself nimble and
flexible in this regard already.
Let me tell you about a former student:
Maxine Thomas entered Carlow as a 44 year old, first-time
student with only a few community college credits under her belt.
She had three children to raise, and a dream to move
from her job as a bus driver for the McKeesport Area School
District. Maxine decided she wanted something more and turned
to Carlow although she knew it wouldn't be easy. She completed her
morning bus run at 9 a.m., took courses in between, and took
courses again at night. She says it was the best decision she
ever made. She came to Carlow's doors with not much more than
her noteworthy courage and her hope that education could be a game
changer. She left with a degree in social work and today
works with elderly dementia patients at the John J. Kane Regional
Center in Glen Hazel. Please meet Maxine Thomas.
Make no mistake, today isn't about Suzanne Mellon or the
beautiful medallion around my neck, today is about Maxine and the
hundreds like her. Today is about answering that kind of courage
with open doors and an open mind that all things are possible.
Today is about proving over and over again that Maxine was
right. Education is a game changer and the great equalizer in
As a Catholic higher education institution, Carlow is in the
business, as was called upon by Vatican II of all Catholic
universities, of developing "great-souled" individuals who are
desperately needed to address social justice and moral issues of
our day. This will require innovation, risk-taking, and a creative
response to the world with the many challenges and opportunities
that lie ahead.
Today, I am privileged to share our vision for Carlow University as a preeminent Catholic University, renowned for providing transformational learning experiences in which students realize their full potential and become career-ready ethical leaders committed to a just and merciful world.
It is not just careers for when they graduate, but careers and
opportunities we do not know even exist yet. Our students will be
armed with the ethical and values-based foundation to handle the
thorny and difficult situations that will require the type of
leadership and foundation to address the community's and the
As we move forward, we are finalizing a strategic plan for the
University for the next 5 years. It is based on our history and our
sense of deep urgency that this is a call to action for Carlow to
lead and serve the common good.
I want to share the five overarching goals that have emerged
after months of work by the strategic planning steering committee
and broad discussion through multiple stakeholder focus groups.
Our First goal is to Accelerate Growth
We will strategically position ourselves to increase our
enrollment across all our programs, in undergraduate traditional,
transfer, adult and graduate programs. We will do this through
expanding our online footprint regionally and beyond in offering
the programs that the community needs.
We will develop new accelerated baccalaureate to masters
programs for students who desire to complete a graduate degree in a
more expedited and cost-effective manner. One core area we will
expand is a Center of Excellence in health sciences.
Carlow is already noted for our nursing programs and it is time
to expand our reach into other areas.
We have a strong commitment to Southwestern Pennsylvania and
contributing to a vibrant Pittsburgh and the region.
Pittsburgh is a destination and renaissance city and is
positioned to move to a new level of vibrancy and innovation where
it is regarded even more as a model to emulate across our great
Yet, workers with the skill sets required to compete in today's
global economy are in short supply. We will build on current
partnerships and extend to new partnerships with industry and
businesses to address the workforce needs of the future from our
unique contribution as a Catholic University.
Our Second goal is Optimize Learning
With the multiple options for students today, we will provide
exceptional Carlow learning experiences that are distinctive and
integrate challenging and innovative programs with individualized
services that enable students to think critically and creatively,
and develop skills necessary for the global workplace.
Carlow is transforming and will continue to transform into a
21st century, high performance learning university that
focuses on how students learn best, rather than perpetuating the
previous century's teaching-centered model. We will expand
the high impact practices needed in today's world, including global
study, internships, undergraduate research and service
Such service experiences are deeply rooted in our mission,
affording our students a profound opportunity to connect their
education with active participation in society addressing issues of
social and economic justice such as homelessness in Allegheny
County. We will expand this work.
We need to take the lead in more opportunities for action
research in partnership with other community organizations,
including Catholic social ministry agencies. This
is meaningful scholarship.
Our Third goal is Pursue Innovation through
We have a strong legacy of pursuing innovative projects and
being forward thinking - we will expand on this. In fact, today I
am pleased to announce that Carlow University will create a new
Institute for Women's Leadership and Empowerment.
There is a strong need to address the social and health
disparities of women and the role that women's leadership and voice
can have for our community and the world. Carlow University's
Institute for Women's Leadership and Empowerment will increase the
capacity of women to become skilled change agents and social
entrepreneurs within communities regional to global.
The Institute will help empower women - at all levels - who will
use their voices to advocate for inclusiveness, justice, and
democratized decision-making in their lives and in the lives of
Our Fourth goal is Increase Financial Sustainability
While we have demonstrated excellent fiscal stewardship in use
of our resources and providing access to students who are often
first-generation college students and do not have the resources to
afford a college education we are not a rich institution with a
large endowment. We plan to significantly increase our fundraising
for scholarship assistance to keep our education affordable.
Recently, Carlow has raised more money than at any other period
of time in its history. Funding is nearly complete for the
signature project of this campaign: The University
Commons, which will be a transformation in the learning
environment for our students.
Special recognition is due to our campaign's honorary chairs who
have made a significant commitment to the future of Carlow
University. However, we cannot rest on our laurels, and
philanthropy will be an increasingly significant part of the Carlow
culture in the future. We need to grow our endowment and continue
to provide access to an education that is transformational in the
lives of our students and alumni.
Our Fifth and final goal is Transform our Environment
This goal includes the physical spaces on campus that promote
optimal student learning and the digital learning environment to
deliver the 21st century learning for our students to
succeed in today's world.
In 2015, we will be opening the transformed University Commons,
which will feature a library of the future and innovative
collaborative centers for student learning and academic
At Carlow University, it is our commitment to our students that
we will engage with them in Transforming Lives and Transforming our
Let me tell you about one of my greatest teachers when I was an
undergraduate nursing student. She was a 45-year-old mother who had
stage 4 cancer. Elizabeth taught me what a textbook never could -
the power of prayer, the role of faith, the worth of a single hug
or how the clench of a patient's hand within a nursing student's
hand in an ICU — in the toughest of moments — can sometimes say
more than words ever can, more than what can be seen on the
monitors or patient charts.
That's the moment when science and theology collide.
Let's all take a lesson from Elizabeth and the people in our
lives that teach us that we are better together than we are apart
and that whatever journey we are on personally or academically, we
all have the capacity to transform lives, to inspire hope and to
keep dreams alive.
Let us never forget that education, especially at a Catholic
University, is about much more than granting degrees, it's about
moving dreams forward, ours and those around us and in the process
making our world a little better than it was yesterday and a little
more compassionate than it would be without us.
Yes, we will move boldly into the future, but as we do, we look
to the courage of the founders of Carlow University, their risk
taking and life changing entrepreneurial spirit that made and
continues to make a difference in this community. Be assured that
amid today's beautiful ceremony and traditions, a day I will
cherish for the rest of my life, I will never lose sight of the
fact that presidents come and go, but institutions endure.
Today's ceremony is more about Carlow University than it is
about me. Know that I will commit myself fully and faithfully to
the work ahead, inspired by your confidence, and humbled by those
who have brought Carlow to where it is today. I ask you to join me
as we work to make the vision of Carlow University as a preeminent
Catholic university a reality.
Mother Catherine McAuley said, "While we rely totally on God, we
must act as if all depended on ourselves." With the faculty,
staff, alumni, Board and community, I know that we will create the
future where we fulfill our mission " to embrace an ethic of
service for a just and merciful world."
Thank you. May God bless you, and may God bless Carlow