Former Vice President Marjorie Mathison Hance SP'70 enjoys the tributes during her going-away party.
End of an Era
Farewell to an influential administrator, cheerleader and champion.
By Laura Billings Coleman
Marjorie Mathison Hance SP'70 has been coming and going from St. Catherine University since she was 17, but for most of those years, something was missing from her commute. "It always bothered me that we didn't have our own sign on Interstate 94," she says. "But then one day I realized: I could make that happen."
The highway signs that now signal the off-ramps to St. Catherine University are one of the many ways Mathison Hance has made her alma mater known to the broader world, in roles that have ranged from admissions counselor and trustee to business department chair and director of corporate and foundation relations.
Asserting St. Kate's place on the map may well define Mathison Hance's nearly seven-year tenure as vice president for external relations. At a going-away party to celebrate her retirement in December, a lively cheering section of faculty, staff, alumnae, donors, trustees and students celebrated "Margie's top 10 list of living legacies."
Among them were bringing St. Kate's to the Minnesota State Fair last summer for the first time, strengthening alumnae engagement — and raising the University's visibility — through events such as Shout Out St. Kate's Day, KatieFest and Give to St. Kate's Day, and raising nearly $80 million during the toughest economic climate since the Depression.
"I'm proud of the fact we really claimed our spot as the largest college for women in the country," says Mathison Hance, who nevertheless co-led a task force that made a compelling case for St. Kate's transformation from college to university in June 2009. Business professor and friend Mary U. Henderson says the effort capitalized on all of the expertise students have come to expect from "a good Margie class" — leadership, change management and teamwork.
Enlisted as a trustee at age 34, Mathison Hance had a successful career as national sales manager for Honeywell Lighting Controls before being encouraged to apply for the 3M Endowed Chair, a teaching position on St. Catherine's business faculty. The job allowed her to spend less time traveling and more time with her two daughters, Laura and Jill.
Over the years, the connections she forged between St. Catherine and the corporate world created internships and other opportunities for students, helped launch the Minnesota Census of Women in Corporate Leadership, spurred the creation of the Center for Sales Innovation, and enhanced St. Kate's reach as a leader in STEM education. "We try to use the resources we have very well," she says.
"That's something we hear from foundations all the time — that we commit to making big things happen and we make money go very far."
Mathison Hance had been doing double duty herself as chair of the business department and director of corporate and foundation relations when President Andrea Lee, IHM, approached her about leading St. Catherine's external relations division — a job offer that came just as her husband, Tom Hance, had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
"Sister Andrea was magnificent in her support," Mathison Hance recalls, encouraging her to spend the summer working from the family's cabin at Pelican Lake and traveling while Tom's cancer was in remission. "The thing that continues to impress me is how deeply good the people are at St. Kate's," she says. "They are working here because they believe in the place, not just for a paycheck."
Known for starting her quarterly divisional meetings with ice breakers that invite everyone to share their favorite sports, passions and places, Mathison Hance is looking forward to a retirement that will give her more time to enjoy all of hers: jet skiing, video games ("Dance Dance Revolution is my favorite") and Pelican Lake, where she spends a week each summer working on a mystery novel.
Though she won't give away the plot, she says her protagonist would fit right in at St. Kate's. "Am I writing a hero or heroine? A heroine, of course!"