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Sister Colette Mahoney, RSHM


“[Quality] is measured by the distance the individual student has traveled, her own experience of growth—in intelligence, sensitivity, humanity and imagination. Have students been led forth into a greater awareness of their uniqueness and potential? To a greater understanding of the world around them and their responsibilities to the human community?”

Sister Colette Mahoney
“The Vision for the Future,” Speech, Marymount Manhattan College [ca. 1987].

Sister Colette Mahoney, RSHM, Ph.D., began her 21-year presidency of the College, shepherding it through a time of political and social upheaval when student unrest is prevalent throughout the nation. During her tenure as President, the student body tripled and the campus grew. Sister Colette promoted the education of adult women and minorities and oversaw the creation of a Weekend College and other programs for non-traditional students, the growth of the performing arts program, and the opening of the Marymount Manhattan Theatre. She was an active member of the Lotus Club and served as director and advisor to numerous educational and civic organizations devoted to improving the well-being of women, youth, and the community at large. She received the President’s Medal in 1988.

Sister Mahoney began her ministry in education at the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Manhattan, 1947-1957, later serving there as superior, 1965-1967. She also taught at Marymount College, Tarrytown, 1961-1965, and Marymount University, Arlington, Va., 1957-1960. Born in Jamaica, Queens, she entered the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary in 1945 and professed final vows in 1952. She held a bachelor’s degree in Latin from Marymount College, Tarrytown, and a master’s and doctorate in biology from Fordham University. In addition to her service at MMC, Sister Mahoney was president of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools; director of the American Association of Higher Education; and chair of the board of trustees for the College of Boca Raton in Florida. She also served as interim president of Presentation College, Aberdeen, S.D., and St. Francis Xavier, Chicago. She was the recipient of five honorary degrees and many other awards, including the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Award for her exceptional contribution to Catholic education. She was cited as “An Extraordinary Woman of Achievement” by the National Conference of Christians and Jews Committee on Women’s Concerns.

Sister Mahoney died peacefully on June 14, 2013 at Marymount Convent in Tarrytown at the age of 86. On October 30, 2013, Marymount Manhattan held a commemorative memorial service in honor of Sister Mahoney. In honor of Sister Colette’s passion for the sciences, all donations from the event went to benefit the Sr. Colette Mahoney Science Research Grant for Faculty-Student Collaboration. During this event, a video tribute was presented, featuring kind words and sentiments from her former students. This video may be viewed below: