Innovative Mary Alice Muellerleile Endowed Chair in English established with lead campaign gift from Brenda Grandstrand Woodson, ’80, JD

Mary Alice Muellerleile ’60

Mary Alice Muellerleile ’60 (pictured) was honored with a $2 million gift by Brenda Grandstrand Woodson ’80, establishing a new endowed chair in Muellerleile's name.

Photo provided.


St. Catherine University announced today that Brenda Grandstrand Woodson '80, JD, and St. Catherine University trustee, has made a $2 million gift honoring Mary Alice Muellerleile '60, faculty emerita and the founding director of continuing education at the University. In addition to establishing a new endowed chair in English, Woodson’s donation is a lead gift in LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence for St. Catherine University, which launched March 19.

The Mary Alice Muellerleile English Endowed Chair will innovate the University’s English pedagogy in ways that illuminate the discipline’s continued relevance, infuse its gifts into curricula across fields, and enrich the academic experience for all students. This Chair will be among the first of its kind in the nation to advance not only scholarly merit, but also disciplinary innovation. The endowed chair will allow St. Kate’s to attract a faculty member who will not only be a highly-accomplished scholar, but who will combine the teaching of literary and multimodal texts with the clear articulation and practice of the foundational skills necessary for today’s students.

“In keeping with the founding tenets of the University, this chair is revolutionary in scope, evolutionary in disciplinary practice, and unwavering in its commitment to student success,” says Tarshia Stanley, PhD, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences. “This endowed chair reflects the best practices of St. Catherine University’s past, present, and future.”

Muellerleile graduated from St. Kate’s in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in English. She went on to teach in this same department, serving as a St. Kate’s English professor from 1967 to 1998 and later becoming a faculty emerita and a trustee emerita on the University Board of Trustees. As the founding director of continuing education at St. Kate’s, Muellerleile built a flagship program offering students courses on the weekends, evenings, and online. For her accomplishments, innovation, and dedication to St. Kate’s and its students, in 2005 Muellerleile was named one of the University’s “Centennial 100” as one of the most influential people in the first 100 years of St. Kate's history.

During her tenure as professor, program leader, and beloved fixture of St. Kate’s, Muellerleile had a profound impact on her students and colleagues. As Woodson’s English professor and advisor during her time as a St. Kate’s student, Muellerleile “changed the trajectory of my life by challenging me to reach higher and expect more than I had thought possible,” says Woodson. “I am deeply grateful for her belief in me and for her personal commitment to my success as a student, a businesswoman, and an individual.

“St. Catherine University is a rare place where a caring faculty nurtures women in learning, critical thinking, and leadership,” Woodson continues. “From personal experience, I believe in the magic of St. Kate’s to transform women's lives and empower them to be their best selves. It is my hope that this Chair will deepen every student's ability to communicate with purpose, to lead with justice, and to serve with wisdom."

Woodson is a community leader in Atherton, California, and a self-employed consultant on nonprofit governance since 2001. Previously, she was vice president and associate general counsel for Oracle Corporation. Prior to that, she was an attorney with McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen and a Minnesota Supreme Court law clerk. Woodson serves on the St. Catherine University Board of Trustees and currently chairs the Audit Committee.

Woodson’s donation is a lead gift in LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence for St. Catherine University.