Domincan University President Donna Carroll continued her series of 2007 accomplishments last Wednesday when she was named winner of the annual Athena Award. She received the prestigious award at an Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Oak Park Country Club. The 2005 recipient, K.L. Robertson Daly, made the presentation.

The Athena Award annually honors professionals, educators and business people who have “demonstrated excellence, creativity and initiative in their profession,” who has made significant contributions to the community “above and beyond her professional responsibilities,” and who has helped other women “reach their full leadership potential in the business world and in the community.”

The chairman of the Athena Award selection committee, Chatka Ruggiero, said all nine of the 2007 nominees were well deserving of the award.

“It’s a very difficult job to pick one out of the group,” she said.

As if to underscore that difficulty, Carroll herself called up one of the nine nominees for the award, Margaret Amato of the Private Bank. Amato, she told her audience, deserved the award as much as she, and wanted to share it with her.

Carroll’s selection closes a circle for Dominican because the first Athena Award in 1986 went to former Dominican President Sister Candida Lund. Carroll is traveling on business this week, but those who’ve worked closely with her were happy to speak about her contributions and accomplishments.

Dominican Vice President for Business Amy McCormack noted that relationships are central to Carroll’s thinking, personally and professionally at all levels. Under Carroll, Dominican has partnered with organizations such as Trinity High School, St. Edmund Grade School, Hephzibah Children’s Association and San Miguel School on Chicago’s West Side. Carroll is also vice president of the Business and Civic Council of Oak Park.

Already on the board of directors of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Carroll last year was appointed to a three-year term on the Bishops and Presidents Committee of the United States Bishops Conference.

McCormack, who has worked under Carroll for 14 years, called her an “incredible mentor with unbounded energy.” During her tenure, Dominican’s endowment has grown by more than 300 percent and enrollment has more than doubled.

One effect of Carroll’s leadership, said Sister Diane Kennedy, vice president for mission and ministry, has been “a great enlivening and energizing” of the university. Over the past several years Carroll has led an ambitious capital improvement program that has seen the construction of both a new science facility and a five-story parking garage. In August, Carroll hosted a gala celebration in the school’s new $38 million Parmer Hall Science and Academic building.

The growth, both in physical plant and enrollment, said McCormack, was undertaken for specific purposes. Carroll, McCormack said, is a strategic thinker who has taken the long view on Dominican’s place in the world while remaining true to the school’s core values.

“She’s very focused on mission,” said McCormack. “We don’t just grow to grow. President Carroll can always tie an idea, an initiative, into our heritage and our mission.”

That mission is first and foremost educational.

“She’s always thinking about the future and how Dominican can make an impact,” said McCormack. “She’s interested in strengthening who we are, and the impact we have on our students, and through them, on the world.”

Carroll and Dominican have certainly had an impact on their neighbors. Under Carroll, she said, the university has grown to be an integral part of the village. The school served as the host site of the village’s 125th gala anniversary celebration in 2005.

Last May, Dominican, which was previously called Rosary College, celebrated the 10th anniversary of its name change. At that time River Forest Village President Frank Paris praised the campus’ physical beauty and called the institution “a terrific village asset.”

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