FORT WAYNE — A daylong schedule of events at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Oct. 9 culminated in the inauguration ceremony of the college’s 14th president, Katie Conboy, Ph.D.
Conboy became the president of Saint Mary’s College on June 1, 2020, but due to COVID-19, the installation was postponed until it was safe to gather in person. More than 500 people attended the inauguration, in addition to about three dozen delegates from national and regional institutions of higher education and the Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees.
Inauguration day liturgy
At a morning Mass celebrated in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto on campus, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades synthesized the parallel missions of Catholic education. That duality, put forth by Blessed Father Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, keeps God at the forefront of the pursuit of higher education.
“Dr. Conboy embraces the vision expressed by Father Moreau in these famous words: ‘We shall always place education side by side with instruction; the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart,” the bishop preached. “While we prepare useful citizens for society, we shall likewise do our utmost to prepare citizens for heaven. A Catholic vision of education includes the heart as well as the mind.”
Therefore, an education guided by faith includes formation in true freedom, “which is not the freedom to do whatever we want, but the freedom to do what we ought,” he said. “It is freedom grounded in truth and goodness, the Truth and Goodness of God who revealed Himself in the Incarnation of His Son as love.”
Bishop Rhoades expressed gratitude for Conboy’s dedication to Catholic identity and the mission of Saint Mary’s College to not only educate young minds, but also to prepare them for heaven. Catholic colleges, he noted, seek not only to foster in its students the wisdom of Mary, but also her obedient humility and the virtue of hope she embodies. “Saint Mary’s College, like all Catholic colleges, are called to be schools of hope,” he said.
The students who come to Saint Mary’s have many goals and many hopes, he continued. Saint Mary’s College helps them realize these goals and to fulfill those hopes.
“In the end, however, even if all these goals are reached and these hopes realized, they will not be totally fulfilled. Neither are we. In fact, we can be quite empty and sad, even amid success. The task of a Catholic college is not only to help students to realize these little hopes, but to embrace the great hope which surpasses all others and gives meaning and joy to our lives.
“Pope Benedict XVI wrote the following: ‘This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain… God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety.’”
At Saint Mary’s College, he said, this hope is communicated by the witness of faith-filled faculty and staff. It is cultivated by prayer and nourished and strengthened by the sacraments and lived through service of others, especially of the poor and needy. In and through their service, students learn to be ministers of hope for others.
The bishop asked the Holy Spirit to bless the college’s new president with the gifts of wisdom, counsel and fortitude so that Saint Mary’s College might “grow and flourish” through fidelity to this holy mission.
A leader in Catholic higher education
Following the Mass and other inauguration day events, the ceremony took place at 1:30 p.m. in O’Laughlin Auditorium, Moreau Center for the Arts.
Conboy comes to SMC from the position of vice president at Simmons University, a Holy Cross women’s college in Boston. Prior to Simmons, she was at Stonehill College, a Holy Cross women’s college in North Easton, Massachusetts. There, she served first as a professor of English literature, then as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
She is an award-winning teacher, author and an active scholar. She earned her doctoral degree in English literature from the University of Notre Dame in 1986, and her undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas in 1981. Conboy is married to Thomas O’Grady, Ph.D., retired. The couple has three grown daughters.
In her first year at Saint Mary’s College, Conboy’s actions lead the college through the effects of the civil and social unrest and global health crisis felt throughout the nation. She also created an environment that allowed the college to successfully complete the 2020-21 academic year in person.
She said she takes a page from the school’s founders and sponsors, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, “who have boldly evolved their own work over the years, meeting the needs of the times in so many powerful ways.”
Conboy has already shaped a long-term vision for Saint Mary’s and codified it in a document available on the Saint Mary’s College website at saintmarys.edu/office-of-the-president/strategic-plan.
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