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Our view: Scholastica’s success benefits Duluth, region

The first laywoman to be president in the storied, 104-year history of the College of St. Scholastica, Colette McCarrick Geary long has focused on serving students. It’s a well-placed emphasis that promises only optimism for Duluth’s higher-education community.

 Colette McCarrick Geary

While Geary’s inauguration on Oct. 14 may have been overshadowed by the recently concluded election season, all of Duluth can welcome our newest community leader and wish her success, recognizing that her accomplishment and the health and well-being of St. Scholastica benefit our entire region and all of Minnesota.

Geary is only the 12th president at St. Scholastica and is the first woman to serve as president in 40 years.

“The college is well-positioned for this new era; with you, Dr. Geary, we as a community of faculty are dedicated to providing our students with intellectual and moral preparation for responsible living and meaningful work,” Ryan Sandefer, chairman of the Faculty Assembly at St. Scholastica, said as one of the inauguration speakers.

“We ask for your support as we work to model the love of learning and to cultivate it in our students,” Sandefer further said. “This is one of the Benedictine values we faculty members hold most sacred. We pledge that we will work with you to bring the college to new heights of academic achievement.”

Geary’s official biography, provided by the college to the News Tribune Opinion page, leaves little doubt about her ability to hold up her end of that deal.

She most recently served as senior vice president for strategic initiatives at the College of New Rochelle, which is just north of the Bronx in New York. In that role she implemented a strategic plan. Prior to that, as vice president for student services at the century-old, private, Catholic college, she worked closely with students, supervising health services, counseling and career services, disability services, intercollegiate athletics and campus ministry. Her emphasis on students led to a redesign of the Career Services Department. Her changes proved so successful the department’s use by students more than doubled in a single semester.

Also under her leadership at New Rochelle, opportunities for students to learn outside the classroom — via service trips, internships and more — increased significantly.

Before New Rochelle, Geary served 14 years as dean of students for Manhattan College in Riverdale, N.Y. She focused on student life, the performing arts, counseling and health services, and residence life. She also advised international students. For more than a decade before that she taught in the master’s degree program in counseling, receiving prestigious honors and being recognized for her leadership.

“We are very excited that you are here,” Stephanie Peters, a St. Scholastica senior majoring in health information management, said at the inauguration. “Already you have impacted the culture here at CSS. During welcome (back to school) week, you made it your goal to meet as many students as possible and make your presence here known. Your willingness to listen to and learn from my fellow classmates and myself is genuine and has meant so much to us as students.”

That willingness seems to be nothing new for Geary. Coupled with her vast experience as a clinician, professor and dean, she brings the promise of prosperity to the president’s office. All of Duluth can be enthused by her arrival, offer our support, and pull for her success.