An Ongoing Connection

Mary O’Connor ’94 became acquainted with Excelsior College the way many others do. A mentor at work — in her case, a nurse manager at a hospital in Brookline, Massachusetts — told her about the College, then known as Regents. As a nurse manager without an advanced degree, O’Connor wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree and progress in her nursing career. Nearly three decades later, the two remain friends and O’Connor, an associate professor of nursing at Notre Dame of Maryland University, remains connected with the College.

In December 2017, she completes her second three-year term as an Excelsior College trustee. She joined the board of trustees as an ex-officio member in 2005 when she was elected president
of the Alumni Leadership Council. In that role, she remained on the board for two, two-year consecutive terms. As a trustee, O’Connor observes Excelsior College from a different perspective, more behind-the-scenes. “I can see how the mission is lived,” she says, and adds, “The people who are working at Excelsior are really dedicated to their craft in whatever they are doing … and it’s obvious they care about the students.”

O’Connor cares, too, and recently designated Excelsior College as a beneficiary of a portion of her estate. The decision to do so came easily. Her employer was changing retirement plan vendors, which is a natural time to review beneficiary designations. Her designated beneficiaries were now established adults, so that left her with some flexibility for allocating funds. “I felt I could spread it around a little bit more, and Excelsior has always been one of my top two giving priorities: church and Excelsior,” explains O’Connor. Her gift qualifies her as a member of the Nyquist Legacy Society. Excelsior provided O’Connor with a springboard to further education and opportunities. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she earned a Master of Science in Nursing from Northeastern University in 1997 and a PhD from George Mason University in 2005. She has published widely on nursing leadership, and applies this interest to her teaching of population health. She asks of her students, “As nurse leaders, how are we impacting the health of the communities we serve?”

The same could be asked about her impact as an alumna. Through her many contributions, O’Connor positively affects the health and well-being of the Excelsior community she serves.