Carol Ann Mooney | University of Portland

Carol Ann Mooney

The transformational value of an all-women’s education, the Holy Cross mission, and a reverence for the law are the threads that have bound Carol Ann Mooney’s career in higher education. Eventually, these values led to her 12-year tenure as president of Saint Mary’s College, an all-women’s institution founded by Holy Cross sisters in South Bend, Indiana. She was the first lay alumna to serve as president. She learned to love the law early on while working as a secretary for a law practice in upstate New York, the dairy-farm country where she grew up. She likened the experience to being the only doctor in town, and the way the lawyer treated clients made an impression on her: “I saw him treat the farmer and the millionaire with equal dignity and care. I was blown away by how he could help people. He was my inspiration.” After completing her bachelor’s at Saint Mary’s College, she went on to graduate first in her class from Notre Dame Law School. She then worked for a law firm in Washington, DC, until she and her husband decided to move back to South Bend to raise their growing family. One Sunday morning at Mass at Notre Dame, a former professor noticed her and asked first: “What are you doing here?” And second: “Do you want to teach at our law school?”
In 1980, Mooney embarked on 24 years teaching and administering at Notre Dame’s Law School. Her areas of expertise are trusts, wills, and estates, as well as Federal Court procedures. She has co-authored two books on these subjects. She received the law school’s Teacher of the Year award in 1983. Appointed by US Supreme Court Justice Warren Earl Burger, she served in an advisory role to the Judicial Conference of the United States. She also grew in her leadership responsibilities during this time, serving as both assistant and associate dean of the law school, then vice president and associate provost of Notre Dame from 1996 to 2004. In 2004, her decision to lead Saint Mary’s College was, for her, a no-brainer. “When you care about something, and you have skills that could help move it forward, leadership makes sense.” During her tenure she started three graduate programs, significantly increased the number of first-generation students, and successfully increased the endowment during the Great Recession. “Real leadership comes out of love,” she says, “love of mission, love of organization, love of the people.”