Meet St. Kate's New CFO
OM ROONEY BECAME VICE president for finance and administration and chief financial officer at St. Catherine University in late July. His portfolio of responsibilities includes finance and business operations, facilities, human resources, purchasing and procurement, public safety and The O'Shaughnessy, the performing arts center on the St. Paul campus.
Rooney has served in leadership roles at Norwest Corporation (now Wells Fargo & Company), Polaris Industries, Fingerhut Direct Marketing and G&K Services. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and economics, and an MBA in finance from the University of St. Thomas and is married to a Katie, Sue (Taylor) Rooney '91. They have four children: Hunter (13), Taylor (11), Olivia (8) and Luke (6).
What brings you to higher education at this point in your career? I am a big believer in the mission of St. Catherine University: the liberal arts, the Catholic tradition and the development of future women leaders. The strength of the St. Catherine brand — the nation's largest, most innovative leader for educating women — attracted me, as did the opportunity to work with a strong and supportive leadership team led by President Andrea Lee, IHM.
What has been your biggest challenge and surprise so far? The biggest challenge has been the acronyms, from MAOL to CDC and TRW. I was pleasantly surprised by how warm and welcoming the St. Catherine community has been to my family and me. I've always believed that people are the No. 1 asset of any successful institution.
How did you and your wife meet? Sue and I met in 1990. Several St. Thomas students who took elementary education courses at St. Kate's were friends of ours. Sue and I were friends for six months before dating. That gave us time to appreciate each other for the unique gifts we were blessed with: Sue's charm and good looks and my athletic prowess — ha!
You're a numbers guy. How do you relate that work to mission? Being the financial steward and financial partner for all St. Catherine constituents is, in my mind, all about supporting our mission. As your financial leader, I commit to uncompromising integrity and ethical standards, a thorough understanding of the history of the University, a strong work ethic, a willingness to take a stand on issues and to listen, developed problem-solving abilities, good communication and leadership skills, a results-oriented mindset, strategic vision and reliability.
What did college basketball teach you about life and work? Someone in the basketball world once told me success comes from building the team's self-esteem, setting demanding goals, always staying positive, possessing good habits, mastering the art of communication, learning from role models, thriving under pressure, being ferociously persistent, learning from adversity and, eventually, surviving the very success that you set out to achieve.
Who have served as mentors along the way? My parents, Joe and Eileen Rooney, and my siblings, John, Bill and Mary, instilled in me an unwavering values system that stressed faith, family, lifelong learning, career and volunteerism, in that order. I have also been blessed to learn with and from former coaches, teachers and professors, leadership development program leaders, managers, board members, insurance brokers, corporate bankers, lawyers, peers and even subordinates.
More recently, the CFO at St. Thomas, Mark Vangsgard, has been acting as a relevant, real-time mentor for me in my transition to higher education. He came from corporate, as I did.
What is a "must have" in your office — wherever that office is? I have offered to have a Diet Coke drink-off with Sister Andrea, who claims she also drinks too much of it at work. Seriously, a picture of my wife and kids to help keep me motivated, an iPhone, a computer with an internet connection and a telephone.
How hard is it to sit through all the Tommie jokes? I recognize that it is all in good fun. Plus, since I am married to a Katie and on the St. Kate's payroll, I know I had better just keep my mouth closed and nod politely or laugh in agreement.
— Amy Gage