Meet the Current Alumni Association President
After serving as chair of the Medical Alumni Board for five years, Mary Beth Connell (M’89) jumped headfirst into her new role as president of the Alumni Association in July 2012. A committed leader in the medical community, Connell specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and lives in Bethesda, Md., with her husband, Marc D. Connell (C’80, G’83, M’86, R’92), and their three children. In a recent interview, she discussed how she’ll support our alumni community, what sets Georgetown apart from other schools and her vision for her two-year term as president.
How did you find Georgetown Med?
I did my undergraduate work at Notre Dame. I had never been to the East Coast until I went to Bryn Mawr [near Philadelphia] and spent a year taking secondary sciences there. My brother was an undergraduate at Georgetown at the time, and I’d been to visit him on several occasions and had a ball. I saw what Georgetown had done for him and how he blossomed as a human being. I really thought the motto of cura personalis was important, so Georgetown was the only school I cared to go to, and fortunately, I was accepted.
Tell us about your career in medicine.
I grew up as the oldest of four children. My father is a retired cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, so I spent a lot of time in the hospital and in the operating room. I knew at a young age that I wanted to become a physician.
For me, physical medicine and rehabilitation is a wonderful melding of everything from internal medicine to neurology and orthopedics. I’ve taken care of serious injuries like traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries, things that really changed families’ lives. You can’t just see the patient as an individual—you really have to see him or her as a member of a family, and you have to be aware of everything from his personality to his career to his body to his soul as you made decisions.
I feel so proud to be a physician because of the meaning it’s given my life. The idea that every single day is a gift that God gives us is really enforced by what I do professionally. I think it’s given me peace and the ability to focus on what’s important as far as my family or giving back to the university.
What goals do you have for your two years as president of the Alumni Association?
I’m definitely going to continue the strong work of the leaders who have gone before me: Mark Siskin (F’71), Kathy Baczko (SLL’68), Phil Inglima (C’84, L’88) and Paul Besozzi (F’69, L’72), who’ve done stellar work with our international alumni, and, Julia Farr Connolly (C’88), most recently, with alumnae. I’d like to improve communications for all alumni—we’re now 160,000 worldwide. I’d like to support the university in the campaign and, most specifically, in increasing Annual Fund participation. And finally, I would like to focus on spirituality.
Why did you decide to take on a leadership role in the Alumni Association?
I think it’s an incredible opportunity to give back to a university that gave me my professional career. When I was both an undergraduate and a graduate student, mentoring was something that didn’t occur as often as it could have. So I like to give to the students in any way that we alumni can, whether it’s networking, advice for their careers or dinners in our homes to speak about their futures.
I stepped off the work track for a while to be home with my children, and as I became more involved in volunteer activities through Georgetown, I decided to put off returning to paid employment until my volunteer service is complete. I feel like I have the time to dedicate to this right now, which I consider a blessing.
What do you personally get out of it—all of your engagement with the university?
The individuals whom I work with on the boards have wonderful personalities and diverse backgrounds. They’re intellectually stimulating, have great senses of humor and they’re all coming together to make things better for Georgetown. It’s been a lot of fun.
What excites you about this new position?
I think the most exciting thing is access to all the young, brilliant students who are at Georgetown. I find it very refreshing to be among up-and-coming great minds like that.
I think it’s also a wonderful opportunity when one sits on the Board of Directors to come back to the entire alumni community and discuss the importance of participation in the capital campaign. As Paul Tagliabue, chair of our Board of Directors, and Bill Doyle, our campaign chair, say, great universities are built on great philanthropy. As president of the Alumni Association, I feel it’s important to get the message out to all alumni that it’s about participation. Every bit helps Georgetown University, and we need to take our seat at the table with all the other great universities in the United States.
You have a unique perspective as an undergraduate alumna of another school. What’s special about the Georgetown alumni community?
What I think is special about the Georgetown community, different from any other university in the United States, or in the world, for that matter, is that so many bright students come here because they want to do good and make a difference in the world.
What defines your leadership style?
I’m very organized and very type-A, but I love to have a good time, so I think anyone coming to our Board of Governors meetings, including the retreat we just held in June, saw that it’s a very fun experience.
Courtesy: Georgetown Magazine, October/November 2012