President Garibaldi’s remembrance of Sr. Maureen Fay, O.P.

Sr. Maureen Fay portrait photograph.By Antoine M. Garibaldi— President of University of Detroit Mercy

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni of University Detroit Mercy, I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sr. Maureen Fay, and especially to Sr. Frances Nadolny and the Adrian Dominican Sisters. After 68 years of dedicated service to her religious community, Sister Maureen is now enjoying her eternal rest and reunited with her parents, Ann and Michael, and her brother, Timothy.

It is an honor to have this opportunity to highlight some of Sister Maureen Fay’s numerous accomplishments over her 14-year tenure at University of Detroit Mercy. I was fortunate to know her personally and professionally many years before coming to Detroit Mercy because of our service together on the board of University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Her national reputation as an administrator and leader throughout Catholic higher education was and remains well known because of her eight-year leadership of Mercy College of Detroit before its consolidation with University of Detroit, and her founding of the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education for aspiring Catholic university leaders from around the world. Today, that formerly known National Seminar continues as the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Leadership Institute. 

Sister Maureen was a visionary and a pioneer. She was the first president of Mercy College of Detroit who was not a Sister of Mercy; and she was the first president of a Jesuit University who was a woman and not a Jesuit.  As a truly “new” kind of chief executive of and at both institutions, she confronted and successfully addressed head-on the two universities’ significant challenges of enrollment, core curricula, finances, alumni involvement, institutional culture and other issues. An exemplary strategic planner who was guided by her prior administrative experiences, she formed the Commission on the Future to position Detroit Mercy’s programs and plans for the 21st century, as well as conducted a Prioritization strategic planning process and Vision 2020 implementation. An adept fundraiser, Sr. Maureen raised $101.3 million for the university’s Legacy Campaign. And she constructed new and renovated existing facilities, as well as modernized the technological and physical infrastructure and implemented innovative programs. She made very difficult decisions in the best interest of the University and particularly its mission, namely, “to provide academic excellence within a Catholic and urban context.” Sr. Maureen was greatly admired by faculty, staff, students and alumni for their mutually positive working relationships and for her wonderful sense of humor and characteristic laugh. In describing the transformation of the McNichols Campus’s gravel parking surfaces, she often jokingly said: “I will probably be most remembered as the president who paved the faculty and student parking lots.” She was truly a president who focused not only on the substantive but also the seemingly minute aesthetic details that promote a University’s image.

Sr. Maureen was actively engaged in the community and served on numerous civic, corporate and education boards, including: the Detroit Chamber of Commerce; the Greater Downtown Partnership; New Detroit; and two Fortune 500 companies – Bank One and Kelly Services. She also chaired a capital campaign for Dominican High School and Academy that raised $2.8 million. She received several awards from civic and non-profit organizations such as the Salvation Army, the National Conference for Humanity and Justice, and Alternatives for Girls. And she received honorary degrees from Siena Heights University, University of St. Thomas (MN); Marquette University, Xavier University, College of the Holy Cross and University of Detroit Mercy.

Literally and figuratively tall in stature and standing, Sr. Maureen opened many doors and broke many glass ceilings in American Catholic higher education for women, religious and laypersons because of her contributions at St. Xavier University, Mercy College of Detroit and University of Detroit Mercy. Thirty-one years after the bold collaboration of her and Fr. Robert Mitchell, S.J. to make Mercy College of Detroit and University of Detroit a stronger Catholic institution, she leaves an eternal legacy that will benefit tens of thousands of future leaders in Michigan, the United States and the world for decades.  

May she rest in peace!

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See the University’s official news release in CC.