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Adrian Dominican Sister Maureen Fay, OP, PhD, Founding President of UDM, Dies at 87

June 7, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Maureen (Marie Timothy) Fay, OP, PhD, President Emerita of the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), died May 27, 2021, at the age of 87 and in the 68th year of her religious profession in the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

Sister Maureen served as President of UDM for 14 years, from its inception in 1990, when it was formed through the consolidation of the University of Detroit and Mercy College of Detroit, to her retirement in 2004. The consolidation involved not only bringing together faculty, administration, staff, students, curricula, programs, grounds and facilities, boards, alumnae/i, and other entities from each institution but also the charisms and cultures of the two Roman Catholic religious orders – the Jesuits and Religious Sisters of Mercy – that sponsored each one.

During her tenure, Sister Maureen – a member of the Dominican order – successfully integrated the two institutions into one, focusing on the growth and revitalization of what became Michigan’s largest and most comprehensive Catholic university, with an enrollment of approximately 6,000 students. 

Read more about her ministry in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Catholic, and Global Sisters Report.

In 2007, she was recognized with the Father Hesburgh Award, the highest recognition given by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities for outstanding contributions to Catholic higher education. 

In 2009, when she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Jesuit-run College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Mass.), the citation read: “In 1990, when Mercy College merged with the University of Detroit to form the University of Detroit Mercy, you became the first non-Jesuit president of any Jesuit college or university in the country. It was a historic moment and, appropriately, as a woman of extraordinary courage, vision, energy, and purpose, you embraced this groundbreaking role with wisdom and grace. And your success was great, true and lasting. In your 14 years leading the university, you created an integrated world of learning, drawing the best from both institutions and charting a vibrant future.” 
Before her appointment to lead the newly formed UDM, Sister Maureen had served as President of Mercy College. When she assumed that role in 1983, she was the first president of the college who was not a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Sister Maureen had previously served as Dean of Continuing Education and Graduate Studies at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, and taught at the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University, and DePaul University. 

During her years in higher educational leadership, Sister Maureen served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and on the Executive Committee of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. She twice chaired the Board for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan (now Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities). Sister Maureen also served on the boards of the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota), The Saint Paul Seminary (St. Paul, Minnesota), the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University (Berkeley, California), and Rockhurst University (Kansas City, Missouri).

Sister Maureen was long engaged in Detroit’s civic life, serving on the boards of Bank One Corporation, Kelly Services, Inc., St. John Health System (now Ascension Michigan), the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Economic Club of Detroit, New Detroit, Inc., the Endowment Foundation for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and the Greater Downtown Partnership. In 1997 and again in 2002, she was recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as one of Detroit’s 100 most powerful women. She has been the recipient of numerous other civil and educational awards, including six honorary degrees and the 2013 John Henry Newman Medal.  

Following her retirement from UDM, Sister Maureen directed the Leadership Seminar for the 28 US Jesuit colleges and universities.

The Spring 2004 issue of UDM’s alumni magazine, Spiritus, dedicated to “President Fay’s Legacy of Leadership,” included this quote from Santa Clara University President Paul Locatelli, SJ: “Maureen Fay is an exceptional leader and woman of faith. As the only woman among 27 Jesuits on the AJCU Board of Directors, not even Mother Theresa or Margaret Thatcher could have served with such distinction, aplomb and insight. Maureen has the extraordinary knack of combining intelligence, good judgment, hope and humor. Thank you, Maureen, we’ll miss you.”

Sister Maureen was born in Chicago to Michael and Ann (Whalen) Fay. She graduated from Visitation High School in Chicago and received a B.A. in English from Siena Heights College (University), Adrian; an M.A in English from University of Detroit; and a Ph.D. in Adult and Higher Education from the University of Chicago. She was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Timothy. She is survived by loving nieces and her Adrian Dominican Sisters.

A Vigil Service was on May 31, 2021, in St. Catherine Chapel on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The Mass of Christian Burial was offered on June, 1, 2021, also in St. Catherine Chapel, followed by the Rite of Committal (burial) in the Congregation Cemetery. Access Sister Maureen's obituary to view the Vigil and Mass recordings.

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Avatar  Jim Purcell last yearReply

I offer my condolences to the Adrian Dominican community on the passing of Sr. Maureen Fay, OP. I knew Sr. Maureen both in her capacity as President of Detroit/Mercy University and as a board member for the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University. She was a shining example of a servant-leader who earned the respect of her Jesuit peers (a significant achievement on its own) and she is yet another reason why our Catholic Church should acknowledge and promote women in leadership. May she rest in peace.

Jim Purcell

P.S. I am also the proud nephew of Sr. Marcelline, OP and the proud cousin of Sr. Margaret, OP (aka, Sr. Raymond Joseph), both Adrian Dominicans



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