Sr. Mary Eileen O’Brien, O.P., Ph.D., President, Dominican University New York, announced on Monday, October 2, 2023, that she will be retiring. “It has been a distinct privilege to serve as the president of this remarkable institution for 35 years,” she said, noting that she has not set a definite date for her departure to give the Board of Trustees adequate time to search for a new president and to ensure that there is a smooth transition to new leadership.
In an email to students, faculty, and staff, Sr. Mary Eileen wrote, “Serving as president of Dominican University has never been a job for me; it has been a mission and a calling. I will forever hold the University, its students, faculty, staff, and alumni in my heart.”
Steven Sabatini, Chair of the Dominican University Board of Trustees, thanked Sr. Mary Eileen for her unparalleled service to the University, “Her leadership and vision transformed what was once a small college into a respected university. The campus has greatly expanded with new, modern buildings and academic programs, including those offering master’s and doctorate degrees,” he said. “I am proud to have worked with her for the last 21 years, including the past three as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Sister Mary Eileen will be missed, and we wish her only the best as she embarks on a new phase of her life.” Sabatini said that the Board will be establishing a committee to begin the search for a new president.
Sr. Mary Eileen said the fact that the institution attained prestigious university status, and constructed a long-awaited turf field and track for student athletes factored into her decision. “Having recently achieved both these long-term goals, I feel the time is right for me to announce my impending retirement,” she said. The turf field was officially named the O’Brien Field on Saturday, September 30, 2023, in recognition of Sr. Mary Eileen’s years of visionary leadership and service.
Sister Mary Eileen is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt and has dedicated herself to education, congregational excellence, and leadership for more than 50 years. She began her educational career in the Bronx, where she was raised. She taught mathematics at St. Benedict’s School and St. Pius High School before becoming the principal of St. Luke’s School in the South Bronx. In 1977, she was called upon to assist her mentor and former teacher, Sr. Natalie Casey, who was President of what was then Dominican College, Sr. Mary Eileen’s alma mater. Sr. Mary Eileen later served as Acting College President for one year, was elected to serve as College President in 1979, and remained in that position until 1987 when she left to lead the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt for six years. In 1997, she was chosen to serve again as President of the College and has remained in the position ever since. Dominican College was renamed Dominican University New York in May 2022, when the NYS Board of Regents approved the new University status, under Sr. Mary Eileen’s leadership.
Sr. Mary Eileen earned a doctorate degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Fordham University, a master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education from Teachers College of Columbia University, and a master’s degree in Mathematics from Manhattan College. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Dominican College. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Journal News/Junior Achievement Business Person of the Year, Rockland Employment Network Lifetime Achievement Award, Helen Hayes MacArthur Award, Annual Award from Rockland Economic Development Corporation (REDC), Women Pioneers in Education Award, Dominican University Hall of Fame, and Our Lady of the Rosary Leadership Award from the New York Archdiocese.
In addition to her dedication to Dominican University and the Sisters of Saint Dominic, Sr. Mary Eileen is active in the local, regional, and national organizations. Some of her involvements include the Helen Hayes Advisory Board, Caldwell University Board of Trustees, Rockland Business Association Board of Directors, Council of Independent Colleges Board, The Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities Board, Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference President’s Council, Dominican Higher Education Council, and Lower Hudson Valley Catholic Colleges and Universities Consortium. She also participates in the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
Sr. Mary Eileen is one of five individuals to serve as President of Dominican College/University, and the longest-serving President in its 70-year history. Dominican University New York currently serves approximately 1,500 students offering undergraduate programs, master’s programs in teacher education, occupational therapy, nursing, business, and organizational leadership and communication, as well as doctoral programs in physical therapy and nursing.