The Carleton community was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mary E. McNamara on June 15, 2013, in New York City. She had suffered with cancer for the past few years. Mary served as the seventh president of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (United) from 2009 until her retirement in 2011 due to health concerns. In late 2012, Mary moved to New York City (NYC) to be near family and friends. Mary grew up in Cambridge, Minn. She was a religion major at Carleton, received her M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Prior to becoming president of United, Mary served as executive vice president of Union Theological Seminary in NYC, where she also served as president of The Interchurch Center, director of the Not-for-Profit Sector in the administrations of Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, and associate of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). She was a member of the Presbytery of New York City, serving as moderator and chairperson of the Committee on Ministry; as a member of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, she served on the Committee on Ministry as well. In addition, Mary was treasurer of The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Mary also served churches in Illinois and Connecticut and at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in NYC, where she was involved in the negotiation with Citibank to provide for the current church facility in the base of Citibank Tower. Upon her election as president of United, Mary said, “United has an exciting future in theological education. The trustees, faculty and staff are exceptionally thoughtful, gifted and dedicated. I look forward to working with these wonderful people to prepare spiritual leaders ready to engage the problems facing people today. It is my hope that our graduates will be people who believe the possibilities are great, can inspire others through worship and service, and recognize that the challenge of doing so is critically important!” Acting upon her interest in the power of the arts, Mary established a partnership with the Guthrie Theater, where faculty members from the Minnesota Consortium of Theological Schools participate, along with Guthrie actors, in post-performance discussions. Audience members who stay after the show are treated to thoughtful, relevant insights about the play through a theological lens. This popular program, which grew out of a conversation between Mary and the theater’s artistic director, Joe Dowling, continues today. Mary’s most important contribution to United was her financial and operations expertise. She addressed the seminary’s financial difficulties, positioning the seminary for a strong financial future. Mary successfully shepherded the institution through a strategic planning process, producing a plan that has been instrumental in the seminary’s new marketing initiative and strengthening the development department. Mary is survived by her sons Peter (Aida) and Nathaniel; grandson Luke; and brother Paul Bjorklund.
For our 45th Carleton reunion, I stayed with Mary at her home in St Paul and drove down to the reunion with her. We made plans at that time to get together again for the 50th. It was quite a shock to learn that she had died. Her cancer must have been diagnosed soon after our visit in the summer of 2010. I’ll miss her very much.