Our Next President

Katie Conboy Named President-Elect of Saint Mary’s College

Saint Mary’s College celebrates the announcement of Dr. Katie Conboy as the 14th president in the College’s 176-year history. Conboy was selected unanimously by the Board of Trustees and will begin on June 1, 2020. The announcement was made at Saint Mary's on February 12, in front of a gathering of students, faculty, staff, and invited guests. Hundreds of alumnae and study abroad students watched the event via livestream. Conboy succeeds Dr. Nancy Nekvasil, who has served as Interim President since 2018.

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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.

– Katie Conboy PhD, President-Elect

Conboy has served as Provost and Senior Vice President at Simmons University, a women’s college in Boston, 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, 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.

The President-elect comes to Saint Mary's with an understanding of our historical identity and enduring focus on innovation, and brings experienced and passionate leadership to these efforts. As Provost at Simmons, Conboy led an intensive, two-year academic redesign that created four new interdisciplinary colleges. She also drove the university-wide strategic-planning initiative as well as an 18-month curriculum assessment and refinement process. 

Conboy also gained 13 years of Cabinet-level experience at a Holy Cross college while serving as a chief academic officer of Stonehill. During her tenure as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, she directly supervised academic strategic planning, assessment of curriculum and co-curriculum, and all faculty hiring and development. The Office of Admissions also reported directly to her for seven years as the VP of Academic Affairs.

Spes Unica Hall
Meet the President-Elect

Insights from Dr. Katie Conboy
Insights from the President-Elect

The Avenue street sign
Read and Leave Notes for Dr. Conboy

Le Mans Tower
About the Search Process

Le Mans Hall at Saint Mary

Insights From the President-Elect

Dr. Katie Conboy Introduces Herself to Saint Mary's College

Thoughts on Catholic Education

Why a Women's College?

Value of Liberal Arts

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From Colleagues

 


“I knew years before I was able to attract Katie to Simmons that I would benefit greatly from working with her. She has inspired faculty to accomplish what no other institution in the U.S. has done — redesign both our undergraduate curriculum and our academic organization with votes of full confidence achieved on both. Katie is hard working, purposeful, academically gifted and fun loving. I cannot wait to see all the wonderful things she will do at Saint Mary’s.”

Helen Drinan
President, Simmons University


“Congratulations to Saint Mary’s College on the excellent choice of Katie Conboy to be president. Katie is among America’s most imaginative and energetic leaders in higher education. She will bring to her new role deep experience in women’s education and Catholic education, multiple successes with partner institutions, and unshakeable idealism and integrity. The future of Saint Mary’s is bright indeed with Katie at the helm.”

Dr. Richard Ekman
President, Council of Independent Colleges

“Katie Conboy is an innovative leader who sees possibilities and opportunities inside challenges. She thinks into the future, and knows the special obligation we have in higher education to create transformative academic and life experiences for students. Her strength in aligning trustees, faculty, staff, and alumnae around student needs has been an important factor in Simmons' success and it is one that will serve the Saint Mary's community well.”

– Regina Pisa
Chair, Board of Trustees, Simmons University
Chair Emeritus, Goodwin Procter LLP

 

“As a close colleague of Dr. Conboy for seven years at Stonehill College, I can only say that Saint Mary’s has chosen wisely. Katie is a collaborative and strategic leader who has the energy and commitment to advance Saint Mary’s unique mission. She is a person of the highest integrity whose values always inform her decisions. Katie takes the time to listen and reflect; but she also has a wicked sense of humor. Congratulations on your decision to invite one of the true leaders of higher education to lead Saint Mary’s College.”

Dr. Joseph Favazza
President, Saint Anselm University


“On behalf of her many friends and colleagues at Stonehill, I extend our sincere congratulations to Dr. Katie Conboy on her appointment as the President of Saint Mary’s College. For over 26 years, Dr. Conboy served Stonehill with distinction as a scholar, author, teacher, mentor, and for 13 years, a senior administrator as the College’s first Provost. An astute listener with a gracious sense of humor, Dr. Conboy’s collegiality and heartfelt encouragement of her peers fostered deep collaboration and innovation on campus. Given her experience at Stonehill, Dr. Conboy also has a deep appreciation for the power of a Holy Cross education and the importance of both scholarship and faith in ensuring the cultivation of minds and hearts. Saint Mary’s has found a leader with the knowledge, experience, and range of skills to address the challenges and opportunities facing higher education today.”

Father John Denning, CSC
President, Stonehill College


 

Cross atop Haggar College Center — Saint Mary

Meet the President-Elect

The Board of Trustees at Saint Mary’s College has announced that Dr. Katie Conboy has been selected as the 14th president of the 176 year-old Catholic women’s liberal arts college. 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. 

As the future president of Saint Mary’s, Dr. 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.

“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,” Dr. Conboy said. “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.

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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.

– Katie Conboy, President-Elect

After interviewing several finalists who were recommended by a search committee, Dr. 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 Dr. Conboy’s experience with institutional strategic management and large budget oversight. As Provost at Simmons, Dr. 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, Dr. 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.

“I knew years before I was able to attract Katie to Simmons that I would benefit greatly from working with her,” said Helen Drinan, president of Simmons University. “She has inspired faculty to accomplish what no other institution in the U.S. has done — redesign both our undergraduate curriculum and our academic organization with votes of full confidence achieved on both. Katie is hard working, purposeful, academically gifted and fun loving. I cannot wait to see all the wonderful things she will do at Saint Mary’s.”

As a faculty member, Dr. 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.

“Congratulations to Saint Mary’s College on the excellent choice of Katie Conboy to be president,” said Dr. Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges. “Katie is among America’s most imaginative and energetic leaders in higher education. She will bring to her new role deep experience in women’s education and Catholic education, multiple successes with partner institutions, and unshakeable idealism and integrity. The future of Saint Mary’s is bright indeed with Katie at the helm.”

Katie is among America’s most imaginative and energetic leaders in higher education. She will bring to her new role deep experience in women’s education and Catholic education, multiple successes with partner institutions, and unshakeable idealism and integrity.

– Dr. Richard Ekman,
President, Council of Independent Colleges

Saint Mary’s alumna and President of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister Veronique Wiedower, CSC, welcomed Dr. 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.”

Dr. 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.

A heartfelt thank you to our talented community members who assisted in welcoming Dr. Katie Conboy including
the Beiger Mansion, Matt Cashore Photography, PentaVision Communications Inc., and Grass Roots Media.