I take a page from our founders and ongoing 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.– President Katie Conboy
Dr. Katie Conboy became the 14th president of Saint Mary’s College on June 1, 2020. With more than three decades of experience in Catholic higher education, the liberal arts, and women’s colleges, she continues our 177-year-old mission of empowering undergraduate women to make a difference in the world. An imaginative and seasoned leader, she encourages collaboration across the College, inviting the community to explore new approaches to every endeavor and challenging students to be creatively curious about how their knowledge, skills, values, and actions can contribute to the greater good.
In her first year, Conboy took on many purposeful actions, not the least of which was leading the College through the effects of the civil and social unrest and global health crisis felt throughout the nation. She worked quickly to understand the profound challenges facing our campus and created an environment that allowed the College to successfully complete the 2020/21 academic year in person.
It was also a priority for President Conboy to discern a long-term vision for Saint Mary’s. Recognizing the changing needs of today’s college students, Conboy swiftly began work on a new strategic plan for Saint Mary’s. Over a four-month period, she hosted over 40 meetings, engaging every campus constituency, as well as the Sisters of the Holy Cross and external stakeholders such as employers and community partners. She created two rounds of surveys and reviewed 1,032 responses from trustees, faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumnae. This feedback helped Conboy reshape and finalize Revere and Revise: Saint Mary’s College 2030.
Conboy’s macro-scale approach to organizational leadership is well rooted in her previous appointments, as she has vast experience with institutional strategic management and large budget oversight. Prior to Saint Mary’s, Conboy served as provost and senior vice president at Simmons University, a women’s college in Boston. There, 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—along with four online professional master’s degrees.
Conboy solidified her skills as a fundraiser by helping Simmons complete a successful $100 million advancement campaign, finalizing at $16 million over goal.
Prior to Simmons, she was at Stonehill College, a Holy Cross institution in North Easton, Massachusetts. There she served first as a professor of English literature, then as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. During her tenure, she directly supervised academic strategic planning, assessment of curriculum and co-curriculum, and all faculty hiring and development. While fundraising at Stonehill, Conboy collaborated on a 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 continues to be a life-long learner, completing the Advanced Management Program at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the Nonprofit Financial Stewardship Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Conboy 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. who 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.