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Dean's Update: Happy Birthday, Mrs. Hagerty

May 5, 2017

It was a real treat and an honor to meet Mary E. Hagerty last week at her home in Scottsdale, AZ, and to wish her a very happy birthday--in the Polish tradition of sharing the greeting 'Sto Lat' on the eve of her 100th birthday. Mrs. Hagerty poses in her cap and gown after she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Drexel University.

Mrs. Hagerty is the wife of the past Drexel University president, William W. Hagerty.  For decades after his leadership and work to establish the library as an important, central place for students to engage with information, she has continued to be a generous supporter of the Libraries and the building named after her husband.  She is an elegant, unassuming and thoughtful grand lady, and she has inspired us to launch a new online exhibit: Drexel's First Ladies: Women who Bring Drexel Pride for Doing Something First.

We presented Mrs. Hagerty a birthday card with our idea for the first exhibit entry, which will be for her.   We selected a picture from the Archives of her when she received her Honorary Doctorate degree from Drexel in 1999 and added the following text:

Mary E. Hagerty HD'99 [1917-- ]

Mary E. Hagerty staunchly supported her husband, William W. Hagerty, the 7th president of Drexel University [1963-1984], during its major revitalization period.  Modeling the role of a 'first lady' as part of a team, she never thought twice about what she was expected to do for Drexel. Applying her gift of insights, she built important bridges and put everyone at ease, connecting faculty, students, staff and visitors. Since leaving the University, she has continued to be the prominent supporter of the W. W. Hagerty Library, envisioning it forever as 'a place where information knowledge can be accessed, developed and shared.'


During our visit, Mrs. Hagerty's son, Michael, and her daughter, Catherine, joined me and Susan Baren-Pearson (Director for Development, Drexel's Office of Institutional Advancement) in recording an oral history for the Drexel Archives, a wonderful conversation that chronicles Mrs. Hagerty's life. It includes everything from insights about supporting President Hagerty to building partnerships on campus and across disciplines and associations, to her husband's response to requests to serve the country as head of NASA by their friend, President Lyndon B. Johnson.   

Mrs. Hagerty's long and consistent contributions to Drexel bring us pride and inspiration. Meeting her in person, and for others to eventually hear her tell her story and see her pictures, helps bring Drexel history to life, a fitting milestone for celebrating our 125th year.

For those interested in what else the Libraries has recently done to further advance the University, I invite you to take a look at the 2015-2016 Libraries Annual report, now available online at

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries

: Mary E. Hagerty received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Drexel University in 1999.]


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