Mary Ellen Cullen, BA ’78, LLB ’81 Open to the Next Opportunity
Golf. Travel. Taking courses. What do previous chairs of the St. Jerome’s University’s Board of Governors do next when they finish their term? If you are referring to Mary Ellen Cullen, BA ’78, (French and German), LLB ’81 (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University), and a previous Assistant Crown Attorney (Peel Region, ON), Crown Attorney (Orangeville, ON) and Deputy Crown Attorney (Kitchener, ON) as the example, you may find her taking part in any one of those activities in retirement. Some may be surprised to learn that fly fishing is also on Cullen’s list. What comes as no surprise to those who know her, is that her dedication to her alma mater includes “paying it forward”.
“SJU has always been a place of opportunity,” stated Cullen. “Early Board chairs like Fr. Finn, who was my faculty advisor in French when I was studying here, and the then Registrar, Brian Eby, were instrumental in my being part of St. Jerome’s. That undergrad experience made it easy to say yes when asked if I was interested in serving here as a member of the Board. I had no idea that it would lead to such a rich and rewarding experience.”
Cullen has been working on the University’s Board of Governors (BOG), since 2012. She currently sits on the BOG as its past chair, having completed her term as chair in June 2021. In her roles on the Board, she has been part of significant changes on campus, including the building of the new residence and the SJ2 - Academic Centre, a major transformation of the library in SJ1, and the development of interactive learning spaces and research labs. Cullen has also committed financially to the work of SJU as a donor. Recently, she was the University’s Giving Tuesday Champion, who matched $5,000 of donor contributions raised for the SJU Student Wellness Initiative Fund. Within the 24-hour period the campaign raised $10,905.
“Relationships, relationships, relationships”
“Working together with talented senior administrators whose vision has driven the University through the construction of buildings, the raising of the PRIDE flag for the first time in 2020, the creation of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiative, strategic planning, and faculty collective agreements, has been inspiring,” noted Cullen, “It was also an honour to chair the search committee for our new President and Vice Chancellor, Peter Meehan.”
Cullen noted that “relationships, relationships, relationships” have been key to her ongoing commitment as a volunteer at SJU. Board, administrators, Faculty, staff, and SJU friends, have all kept her connection to the university strong. She described members of the Board as an amazing group of people offering varied backgrounds and areas of interest and expertise, who have brought a selfless spirit of volunteerism together to support SJU. Equally impactful to her has been experiencing the enthusiasm of students, their supports in Student Affairs, and the intellectual pursuits of Faculty. For Cullen they inspire hope for the future.
So what’s next in Cullen’s future?
“Opportunities arise sometimes when least expected, so it’s a matter of being open to them,” stated Cullen, “but I don’t think there could be another opportunity that can be like being a part of SJU.”