Trustee, '87

Mary Jo Abler is a 1987 St. Catherine University alumna and current trustee. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Kate’s, Abler achieved a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester in New York and a master’s in management of technology from the University of Minnesota. Abler has put her education to work at 3M, applying her expertise across multiple company divisions for 30 years.  This includes three years as vice president and general manager of the communication markets division, which she successfully led through its divestiture from 3M. Abler’s last position before retiring from 3M in 2020 was vice president of new technologies and platforms.

Like many forward thinkers, Abler began building her legacy early in her career. “I first started donating to St. Kate’s shortly after I completed grad school and began working,” she says. Abler attributes her generosity to gratitude for “a built-in advantage of having been educated at St. Kate’s, compared to my colleagues. Confidence, leadership, collaboration, empathy, and integrity are all words that come to mind when I think about my education at St. Kate’s.”

Abler embodies one of the most distinctive characteristics of St. Kate’s history: women empowered not only to succeed, but lead in STEM fields. Part of her strategy to further advance the careers and innovations of women in STEM is by championing the Mendel science building renovation priority of St. Kate’s LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence.

Colleen Curran
Campaign Cabinet,

Colleen Curran ’75 was a St. Catherine University trustee from 2004 to 2007 and currently serves on the Campaign Cabinet for LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence.

Curran’s role is the latest example of her active involvement at St. Kate’s, which also has included teaching as an adjunct professor of business law, participating on several advisory committees, one of which established the Alumnae Association, and another that spearheaded the name change to “University”, and serving as president of the Alumnae Association. All of this she accomplished while building her career in financial services; she retired from Ameriprise as vice president and legal counsel in 2012.

In addition to giving of her time and talents, Curran also has built a decades-long history of philanthropic support of the University based on her advocacy for the liberal arts. “My St. Catherine education honed my critical thinking and communication skills and gave me the confidence and love of learning that sustained me throughout my career and today in retirement,” she said. 

Curran’s generosity to the campaign has come in the form of financial aid to students and support for Our Lady of Victory Chapel.

“When I heard that some St. Catherine students were invited to conferences to present research papers, but didn’t have the financial ability to pay for airfare and a hotel room, I knew I had to do something. I worked with Beth Carney [’82, vice president of development and alumni relations] in the Development Office to create the Margaret Reuder Sutton ’50 Travel Fund. Margaret Reuder Sutton was the first St. Catherine student to receive a Fulbright grant. She spent a year teaching and studying French in Paris, which is dear to my heart, since I was a French major, and I’m still studying French today,” said Curran.

Brennan Cathy
Campaign Cabinet,

Cathy Brennan is a 1970 St. Kate’s alumna and a member of University’s Campaign Cabinet. She majored in occupational therapy and has been engaged in the field for 51 years, recently retiring from multiple leadership roles at the Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association.

Brennan held many positions during her occupational therapy career, and many therapists and patients have benefited from her advocacy for the profession. She became engaged in both state and federal advocacy and developed the peer review system for the Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association, working with insurance companies to bring fairness to the review process. Brennan has received numerous awards in her field, was co-chair of the 2012 Opus Prize, which St. Catherine University spearheaded that year, and was honored to receive the St. Kate’s Alumni Award in 2013.

“I initially became engaged with students from St. Kate’s as they were completing their practice internships,” she said. “I found that St. Kate’s students were ‘a cut above’ in how they sought to further their education. They understood that therapy was more than just teaching daily living skills. The importance of becoming compassionate leaders with cultural competency in the growing field of occupational therapy was also a significant piece of their learning.” Brennan also served as an adjunct faculty member for the University, teaching courses when occupational therapy faculty members were on sabbatical. She also earned a master’s degree in instructional design from the University of St. Thomas.

Minda Suchan

“These unique St. Kate’s experiences positioned me for success, beyond just the need for academic knowledge, which is why I continue to support St. Catherine University today.”

Minda Suchan is a 1995 St. Catherine University alumna. At the top of her professional field, she serves as the executive officer and vice president of geointelligence for MDA, Canada’s largest space technology developer and manufacturer.

Suchan double-majored in chemistry and mathematics at St. Kate’s, and earned a doctoral degree in chemistry at the University of Southern California.

“It was my liberal arts background that best prepared me for the leadership challenges I face today,” she said.

Morgan Batiste-Simms

Morgan Batiste-Simms, a biochemistry major from Houston, Texas, transferred to St. Kate’s from Normandale Community College as a sophomore. She is currently president of the Chemistry Club and plans to apply to MD/PhD programs as she continues her path in science. Her goal is to earn a PhD in biochemistry and specialize in a surgical field.

Her goal — along with the goals of the 2,000-plus STEM students on campus — is why St. Kate’s is embracing an effort to develop more BIPOC women leaders in science. Titled “Expanding HERizons,” the goal is tied to the campaign priority of upgrading Mendel’s spaces and facilities. Batiste-Simms articulated the visible-yet-invisible obstacles she has faced already on her path at a Town Hall event that St. Kate’s hosted last fall: “ ... being in high school, in a co-ed class. I was extremely intimidated because I was one of the only girls in my chemistry class or in my physics class. In the back of my mind was always the fact that I'm female. Being at St. Kate’s, everyone is female ... so when I’m in lab, I'm focused on being a good scientist, not a good female scientist. It’s such a liberating feeling.”

Considering her own career prospects, Batiste-Simms would choose a path that would help minimize the obstacles that women of color in STEM fields face by working in the field of academic medicine. “While I would still be a practicing physician, being in academic medicine means I would be teaching, and thus influencing, students. Being in academic medicine means purposefully taking on a leadership/influential role,” she said. “It is my hope to influence colleagues and future students about the importance and awareness of social justice. It permeates all areas of life, especially healthcare. It is important to teach relatability, patience, and understanding in what tend to be the most vulnerable instances in people's lives.”