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Marywood University to honor community leaders, president reflects on her tenure

Sister Mary Persico, IHM. Ed. D. served as Marywood University President for eight years.
Aimee Dilger
Sister Mary Persico, IHM. Ed. D. served as Marywood University president for eight years.

The people who study, work and live at Marywood University are influenced by the ones who came before them and leaders on campus.

Sister Mary Persico, IHM, president of the university, will retire in June.

She greets the students with one important message during new student orientation.

“I say to them, if you're sitting here, after you applied to 17 schools and visited them several times over again and filled out all the forms and finally committed, if you're sitting in the seats, then you belong here,” she said. “And it has come back to me from students who remember that… That's how I would describe our community, a group of people who feel that this is home and this is where they belong.”

During her eight years as president, Sister Mary saw many changes. The Office of Equity and Inclusion was created to ensure a safe environment.

“No matter who you are, no matter how you identify, no matter your background, no matter your race, no matter your creed, no matter who you are, you're welcome here, because we believe that everyone has something to bring to the table,” she said.

Marywood also established the Office of Global Education to provide support for international students.

“We need to demonstrate to the whole world that we are all part of this global society,” she said. “And we need to care about and respect one another and bring into our circle all the goodness that comes from the diversity of people, like those people and others that have been with us in the past couple of years.”

While the university expanded several academic programs, Sister Mary is proud that they didn't cut liberal arts despite a decrease in enrollment.

“When I was a student here many years ago, the basis for all we did was the liberal arts. And I have seen in the past eight years that professional studies have really taken over universities across the country. And in fact, some universities have eliminated the liberal arts,” she said. “We have not cut our liberal arts programs, even though they're smaller than they were at one time… Because our mission calls us to embrace the beauty of the arts, to embrace the natural goodness that is inspired in people through art and music and the humanities.”

Community Leadership Celebration

Marywood University will host a Celebration of Community Leaders on May 2.

The event, described as an upscale cocktail party with relaxed seating, starts at 5:30pm at the Insalaco Arena Center for Athletics and Wellness. Entertainment will be provided by students and professionals, and proceeds will support campus improvements to enhance the student experience.

Mary Ellen McLane McDonough will receive the Lead On Award for her service and dedication to her alma mater.

Mary Ellen McLane McDonough will be the honoree and Lead On Award recipient at the 2024 Community Leadership Celebration.
Courtesy of Marywood University
Mary Ellen McLane McDonough will be the honoree and Lead On Award recipient at the 2024 Community Leadership Celebration.

McDonough earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and Foreign Languages in 1973. She went on to become a certified prevention specialist, focusing on drug and alcohol education and prevention in schools. She served on the Marywood University Board of Trustees, several other committees, and has been a fundraising volunteer and leader.

“Mary Ellen was here when I came, she was on our board,” Sister Mary said. “And she in fact helped with the transition of the new president when I became the new president. And so I've known her from the very beginning as a very wonderful, warm, compassionate, loving person, and someone who is a leader in her own right.”

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org
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