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In Memoriam: Trustee Trish O’Connell Shortell ’90, Communications Industry Thought Leader

  • Trish O’Connell Shortell ’90

The entire Marymount Manhattan College community mourns the passing of MMC alumna and trustee Trish O’Connell Shortell ’90. She will be remembered for her unparalleled ability to forge relationships, her genuine concern for the welfare of others, and her wise counsel, openness, and joie de vivre.

“Trish embodied the best of Marymount Manhattan—creativity, enthusiasm, drive, and talent,” said President Kerry Walk. “She was selfless in her approach to life, telling me many times, ‘I am here to serve.’ She always put her words into action, and, as a result, her impact on the College as a trustee was both immediate and enduring. The sadness each of us feels is profound, and our hearts go out to Trish’s family and to all who knew her.”

Shortell joined the MMC Board in May 2019 and immediately began making connections between the College and the communications industry. She also worked with President Walk to raise MMC’s visibility on the national stage. Partnering with Board Chair Michael J. Materasso and her fellow trustees, Shortell leveraged her decades of professional experience in organizational development to create a multi-year plan for building and diversifying the Board.

“The College’s trustees are deeply indebted to Trish for all she did to shape the Board,” said Board Chair Materasso. “She was truly a force of nature—full of energy, optimism, and life—and she had a gift for bringing out the best in each person whose life she touched. Her loss is incalculable.”

Upon earning her B.A. in communication arts, Shortell began her professional career at her alma mater, where she served as director of alumni relations. After two years of working to advance the College through alumni events, networking, and fundraising, she entered the corporate space to devise recruitment and talent-building strategies for a number of prominent organizations, including Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, New York City’s oldest law firm. Later, at international executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, she led searches for clients ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to multinational corporations, initiated a firm-wide process for enhancing diversity efforts, and served as a training and development faculty member.

For more than a decade afterward, Shortell served as senior vice president for executive recruiting and talent management at WPP, a global marketing and communications company, and home to one of the world’s most influential networks of marketing and advertising firms. There, she led executive recruiting for the firm’s operating companies in North America and for the finance function globally. Most recently, she was the managing director of executive search at MediaLink, a management consultancy for companies specializing in marketing, media, advertising, entertainment, and communications technology.

Shortell was a recognized thought leader in the communications industry and a tremendously gifted person who used her considerable expertise in talent acquisition and development to bring greater diversity to the industry as a whole.

Trustee Edward Van Saders ’95, Chair of the Board’s Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and a close friend of Shortell’s, reflected on her contributions and commitments when he stated: “For Trish, there were no half measures. She always put her whole heart into everything she did, and that included her efforts to make the organizations she worked with more diverse and equitable. She dedicated her life to helping each person she met take their rightful place at the table and realize their full potential.”

Always looking for opportunities to give back, Shortell not only served on the MMC Board of Trustees; she was also chairperson of the BritishAmerican Business Human Resources Roundtable, and she helped establish New York City’s CAPITAL Program, which introduces promising youth to the creative industries.

Trish O’Connell Shortell is survived by her husband, Joe, and their three children. The College is currently making plans to honor Trish and the lasting impact she made on Marymount Manhattan and all those who were fortunate enough to know her.