Donna McNamara ’68, PhD, once strolled around Dew Drop Pond, attended Mass in Our Lady of Victory Chapel, and peeked through microscopes in Mendel as a student at St. Catherine University. Today, she serves that same institution from the Board of Trustees.
“St. Catherine University’s mission is important to me,” says McNamara, “on the most basic of levels, because it is an institution dedicated to educating women. On a personal basis, this fact is one of the main reasons that I attended in the first place. Once at St. Kate’s, doors opened to me in a world I had never been exposed to or imagined. These were worlds of learning, ambition, confidence, exploration, contribution, caring, and adventure. I am an ardent supporter of St. Kate’s because I am grateful for how the University helped shape me and my life; and, I want to provide that same opportunity to others who might not otherwise be able to achieve their potential.”
After graduating from St. Kate’s, McNamara’s career led her to Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where she earned a doctorate in education and human resources. McNamara’s work quickly collected accolades and elevated her to the rank of executive first at AT&T, and then Colgate-Palmolive Company.
McNamara had not considered her relationship with St. Kate’s for some time; but that changed when a development officer visited her in New York City. According to McNamara, “the real motivation to act was that when our conversation steered to St. Kate’s, I began thinking back – in a way I had not done for years – to my days on campus, how much my experiences there helped shape the trajectory of my whole life going forward, and how grateful I was for having had the opportunity to attend.”
As a former executive at two multinational corporations, a former board member on the National Nuclear Training Accreditation Board, and a former president of the American Society for Training and Development, McNamara likes to know that, through supporting three of her favorite campaign initiatives, she is bolstering her alma mater’s comprehensive plan for the future. Through LEAD & INFLUENCE, the Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence, McNamara is able to contribute to the University’s strategy to meet the needs of today’s students.
Says McNamara, “My participation in the campaign has made me feel fulfilled and closer to the University and its students, because I am able to personally choose how the funds I contribute will be used. In my case, there are three areas I have chosen for direct contribution. One, an endowed scholarship to help first-generation students who could not otherwise afford to attend St. Kate’s. Two, the Katie Fund, to support the University in what are identified as the highest priority areas where funds are needed. And, finally, the Office of Scholarly Engagement, to personally contribute to the goal of keeping St. Kate’s at the leading edge of academic excellence – its hallmark since first being awarded Phi Beta Kappa status in 1937.”
In all, McNamara believes that, “Education enables a person to achieve their career aspirations. A St. Kate’s education additionally builds the values of social justice, community contribution, and commitment to make a difference in shaping the future of the world. Every dollar counts when the purpose is so important.”