President Mary Ellen Gevelinger, O.P.
My World Has Gotten So Much Bigger
Message from the President
Fly Like an Eagle
“Students, the world needs you to help build a just and compassionate world! Let’s do that together this year, and well beyond. I look forward to meeting each of you soon, and again, welcome. Thank You!”
With those words. Interim President Mary Ellen Gevelinger, O.P. launched the academic year for new students at Convocation, and truth be told, for herself as well.
Dr. Gevelinger assumed the role just one week earlier, with the announced departure of Dr. Scott Flanagan, who served Edgewood College for more than 20 years, including five as President.
“Sr. Mary Ellen is the ideal person to lead the College through a successful leadership transition,” Lucy Keane ’84, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said. “We won’t miss a beat as we enter the exciting new beginnings that the start of a new academic year brings as we welcome our students, faculty, and staff back to campus. We are able to prepare for a leadership transition with the luxury of knowing there will be no operational gaps.”
There are challenges ahead, Gevelinger says. But she has never shied from a challenge.
“Growing up on a farm was a lot of hard work, but it’s something I would never trade,” she says. “On a dairy farm, the cows never take a vacation, not even on Christmas.”
That farm, located just outside Mineral Point, Wisconsin, shaped her early for a life of service, meeting challenges, and something more.
“Once a week my mom went to town to the grocery store to buy the things we didn’t already raise on the farm,” she says with a smile. “And right across the street from the grocery store was the library. I’d go to the library every week and get a big stack of books. My mom knew she wouldn’t see much of me until I had made my way through all of those books.”
At a certain point becoming a teacher was on the mind of a younger Mary Ellen – but so was becoming a nurse, or a doctor. But it was her exposure to the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa during her time at school there that clarified her calling.
“The day I entered the convent changed everything in my life,” she says. “The exposure to the other women in the congregation, who had been educated all over the world, who have travelled all over the world, changed everything.”
Teaching did play a critical role in her career, Gevelinger says. Time spent teaching in inner-city Chicago schools, and several advanced degrees later (she earned her Doctoral degree at St. Thomas University, St. Paul, Minn.), a new calling emerged: leadership.
While studying for her Ed.D. she served as Director of Personnel and Planning for all of the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Lessons learned by navigating the complexities in that role, especially during a time of great change in the Midwest and across the country, gave her the tools for a new role in the congregation that has given her so much.
She was elected to congregation leadership twice – first as Vicaress and then as Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa – and served 11 years in those roles.
She’s perhaps most proud of her role in contributing to the centuries-old global reach of the Dominicans. She saw an opportunity to better serve her fellow sisters a half a world away, with what she knows best: the power of education.
“I was the Prioress who started bringing the Dominican sisters over from Vietnam,” she says. “The first two sisters who came to study, one is now doing Masters level work at Edgewood College, the other is studying Canon Law at Catholic University, in Washington D.C.”
A life of leadership, teaching, and today, service to the community of Edgewood College as it steers toward a new future; it starts with the Order of Preachers. “My world has gotten so much bigger.”