SISTER LAUREEN holds her president emerita proclamation, posing with board chair Gail Waring; Sister Victoria Battell, RSM; trustee Maureen O’Brien; former trustee Mary Beth Casey O’Brien and Maria College president.
SISTER LAUREEN holds her president emerita proclamation, posing with board chair Gail Waring; Sister Victoria Battell, RSM; trustee Maureen O’Brien; former trustee Mary Beth Casey O’Brien and Maria College president.
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Maria College in Albany held a ceremony May 3 to honor Sister Laureen Fitzgerald, RSM, with president emerita status.

Sister Laureen, herself a member of Maria's class of 1961, retired five years ago as the long-tenured third president of the college. She was also a long-time board member for The Evangelist.

Officials called the president emerita "a shining light of mercy for the Maria community, fostering a lifelong commitment to Mercy ideals for thousands of students over 38 years."

Maria College was founded in 1958 by the Sisters of Mercy. Over the years, it developed a good reputation for offering associate's degrees in fields like early childhood education, nursing, secretarial science and liberal arts. In 2014, it became a four-year institution, introducing a bachelor's degree in psychology as the first of several additional four-year degree offerings.

In addition to the recognition for Sister Laureen, the college welcomed the O'Brien family to the recent ceremony to announce a campaign for a student learning center named the Frank O'Brien Student Support Center. 

Mr. O'Brien, a former insurance executive and community leader, chaired Maria's board of trustees until his death in 2012. One notable accomplishment during his and Sister Laureen's tenure was the college's introduction of flexible course schedules for working adult students.

The new Student Support Center is meant to assist Maria students with learning difficulties and personal or social challenges, offering support for academics and personal, physical and spiritual needs. It will include a tutoring center, student support and intervention services, career services, pastoral care and more.

Dr. Thomas Gamble, Maria College president, described the move as "enhancing our services to non-traditional students and those with learning differences and unique educational needs."

Mr. O'Brien's family was on hand for the ceremony, including his widow, Mary Beth Casey O'Brien, a former trustee for the college; and his daughter, Maureen O'Brien, a current trustee.

The center is "exactly the kind of place my Dad would have championed," stated Maureen O'Brien. "Whether in business or in life, my Dad loved to see people succeed. He worked hard to make sure that the people around him had opportunities to do well."

(Learn more about Maria College at www.mariacollege.edu.)