Sister Mary George O'Reilly, 95, president of Rosemont College

Sister Mary George
Sister Mary George
Posted: March 13, 2014

Sister Mary George O'Reilly, 95, a former president of Rosemont College whose dedication to the school spanned 60 years, died Monday, March 10, of heart failure at Holy Child Center, Rosemont.

Sister Mary George took over the top job in the 1960s when the Catholic college on the Main Line was entering its fifth decade. It needed better facilities. Using her people skills, legendary ability to remember names, and popularity, Sister Mary George spawned a mini-building boom on campus.

The results were: a new Alumnae Hall; a residence for male employees called White Hall; Heffernan Hall, for resident students; and Lawrence Hall, with offices, classrooms, and art studios.

"She knew the college very well, and she had connections all over the place. She valued the relationships," said her colleague Sister Helen McDonald. "Certainly, we grew during her time."

A sister of the Holy Child Jesus for 72 years, she was drawn to the order because of its piety and compassion. Sister Mary George declared her vows in the early 1940s. Her first teaching assignment was at Holy Child Academy, Sharon Hill.

In 1947, Sister Mary George was named to teach chemistry at Rosemont. Nine years later, she was named dean of the college, and in 1962, president, a post she held until 1971.

Some of her happiest times were when she was close to the students' daily activities, she told colleagues.

In 1982, after a hiatus to support her religious order, Sister Mary George returned to the college to direct a capital campaign that raised $8.3 million for an endowment and campus upgrades. From 1996 until retiring in June 2003, she worked as the executive assistant to college presidents Margaret Healy and Ann Amore.

Over the years, Sister Mary George became such an integral part of Rosemont that former students called her a "tradition." Alumnae jumped at the chance to greet her at school functions.

In addition to her work at Rosemont, Sister Mary George served on several leadership, planning, and administrative teams for the Holy Child Jesus Society.

In 1973, she led the society's national board that merged three smaller provinces into one American Province, a society governing unit.

In the wider community, she served as secretary of education for the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., and planning consultant to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in Washington. She was the first woman named to the board of trustees at Villanova University, serving from 1969 to 1979.

In 2003, Sister Mary George volunteered for prison ministry at the Delaware County Prison, where she counseled offenders to make good decisions for their future lives. She worked into her early 90s.

Born in Toronto, Sister Mary George received her early education in Scotland, the country of her mother's birth, before the family moved to Bronx, N.Y., in 1928. She graduated from St. Barnabas School in the Bronx, and in 1938 earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Rosemont College.

Sister Mary George earned a master's degree in chemistry and mathematics from the Catholic University of America, and a doctorate in organic chemistry from Fordham University.

She is survived by several nieces and nephews.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, March 15, at 11 a.m. in the New Sharon Chapel, 1341 Montgomery Ave., Rosemont. A public wake will be held in the chapel on Friday, March 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A viewing will be held on Saturday, March 15, from 10 to 11 a.m. Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery.

Rosemont College will honor her with a Memorial Mass at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 3, in the Immaculate Conception Chapel on the college campus.

Donations may be made to the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, 1341 Montgomery Ave., Rosemont, Pa. 19010.


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