Mary Van Brunt, Ph.D., endured unexpected turns on her journey to become Spring Hill College’s 39th president.
Dr. Van Brunt began her college career as an undergraduate at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, with the aspiration of becoming a high school math teacher but changed her major to economics. After graduation, she began her banking career as one of the youngest woman branch managers in Pennsylvania. Her branch was one of the top-performing in the company.
“It made me realize that people are most important in meeting professional goals,” Van Brunt said.
Following these victories, she earned her MBA in accounting from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She spent the next eight years holding senior officer positions at Meridian Securities, Inc. and Meridian Bank. After her years as a banking officer, she was the staff accountant for Rhone-Poulenc Rorer in the pharmaceutical industry, but said she didn’t feel passionate about her work anymore.
Dr. Van Brunt’s original passion for teaching resurfaced. “I taught a class in advanced accounting as an adjunct and just fell in love with teaching,” she said. “I made the decision to get my Ph.D. [at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania], which took five years while I was still working at the bank and raising my young family.”
She became an award-winning economics professor at Cabrini University, a private Catholic school in Radnor, Pennsylvania. She received education awards including the NCES/AEFA New Scholar Dissertation Award, Warren York Fellowship, and the Charles R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for excellence in teaching. “Winning those awards confirmed for me that the career change that I had made in my mid-30’s was the right choice to pursue my passion for teaching,” she said.
Dr. Van Brunt also became the founding dean of the School of Business, Arts, and Media at Cabrini as the institution transitioned from a college to a university. “I had a great team of department chairs and faculty and we developed more new programs, partnerships and enrollment than any other school during my two years in that role,” she said. “This role taught me the importance of building partnerships and relationships to further the goals of the school, and how important it is to empower your faculty and staff.”
While at Cabrini, Dr. Van Brunt connected with Catholicism. She was part of a leadership team that led three faculty mission academies over seven years focusing on the Catholic intellectual tradition, social teaching, and the social justice mission. On one of their trips, Van Brunt rebuilt lost homes in New Orleans’ decimated Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. “These academies and retreats brought me closer to faculty and also to a deepening of my own faith,” she said. “They were some of the most transformational experiences for me, personally and professionally.”
Most recently, Van Brunt served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Gwynedd Mercy University, another Catholic university in Pennsylvania, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Much like Spring Hill, Gwynedd Mercy’s largest programs focus on preparing students for careers in nursing and healthcare. There, Dr. Van Brunt gained experience with program accreditations and
graduate program development in the healthcare division.
On January 2, 2023, Dr. Van Brunt began serving as president of Spring Hill College.