This fall, Dr. Mary Kay Sullivan became the nineteenth chair of the Maryville College Board of Directors and the first woman to ever hold the position. Sullivan’s interest in the college began at an early age and developed into over twenty-five years of service in various roles, ultimately leading to this recent honor.
While electing the first female Board Chair is a milestone for MC, it did not occur to Sullivan that she would be making history until someone mentioned it to her after the election. Although she cannot explain why no other women were elected previously, she does not see this as an unusual or unpredictable occurrence at MC.
“I think at Maryville College there have never really been barriers to achievement for people because of gender or race or whatever category we might think of,” said Sullivan. “I am especially delighted at the confidence placed in me as an individual.”
Sullivan joined the Board in 2014 and has served on three committees, including the Academic Affairs Committee, the Finance and Investment Committee and the Executive Committee. In her eyes, the role of the Board is to provide oversight to and ask questions of the administration, so doing research prior to meetings is important. Her proudest accomplishments have been asking questions and promoting Maryville College.
“I try to help make friends for the college,” said Sullivan. “I am so excited about it; I want everyone to know about it. And maybe that’s one thing that I think I have contributed, letting people know about the great things going on here.”
Her passion for “friend-raising,” as she calls it, is a beneficial quality in a Board Chair. Though every member of the Board meets with potential donors and advocates for the college, the Chair is expected to make a major commitment in this area.
During Sullivan’s time as Board Chair, her main goal is to help move the college forward by assisting the administration, the president and the members of the college community. She intends to look to the future of MC and how the Board can contribute to the betterment of the college.
“We’ve got a wonderful opportunity coming up with the bicentennial,” said Sullivan. “Gearing up for historical moments like that allows us to reflect on who we are and where we come from, and to recognize that our mission continues much as it was two hundred years ago.”
Sullivan’s interest in MC began at a young age as she listened to her father’s personal accounts. He came to Maryville from Pennsylvania in the 1930s at the recommendation of his Presbyterian minister, who promoted MC’s excellent academic program. Her father decided to move home after two years at MC because of the Great Depression, but his time here had a lasting and positive impact on him.
After completing her master’s and doctoral programs in business disciplines, Sullivan began working at MC in 1989. She retired in 2010, but continued teaching as an adjunct when she was needed. She now teaches Personal Finance as a volunteer.
“I just love it,” said Sullivan. “I love the students, I love the colleagues and the faculty. The staff is so supportive. I found my home.”