Mary Gray McNally

Birth: November 30, 1912
Profession: February 11, 1943
Death: December 18, 2005

Sister Mary Gray McNally, former president and trustee of Maryville College in St. Louis and headmistress at Villa Duchesne, died Sunday (December 18, 2005) of a stroke at Oakwood Convent of the Sacred Heart, a retirement center for members of her religious order in Atherton, California. Sister McNally, a Religious of the Sacred Heart for 66 years, was 93.

Sister McNally, born in Chillicothe, Mo., was one of three children of Raymond Forrest and Anabelle Quinn McNally. She attended City House Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis, earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Maryville College in 1932 and a master’s degree in mathematics at Northwestern University in 1934.

Maryville College (now Maryville University) is one of six colleges founded by Sr. McNally’s religious order, the Society of the Sacred Heart, in the United States and one of six schools in St. Louis. The St. Louis schools include Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles, City House, which closed in 1968, and Villa Duchesne.

Sister McNally professed her first vows in the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1937 and her final vows in 1942.

Her administrative skills were recognized early on. After a year of teaching at Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles, Mo., in 1943, she was appointed registrar at Maryville, a post she held, until 1949. During those years, she also taught theology and philosophy at Maryville, and from 1949 to 1952, she served as dean of students.

In 1952, she began a 10-year term as headmistress at Villa Duchesne. She oversaw construction of the chapel and the student activities building and took steps to attract more lay faculty to the school.

From 1962 to 1964, she served as superior of the religious community and alumnae liaison at City House.  Meanwhile, she also studied math and counseling at St. Louis University.

Sister McNally was president of Maryville from 1964 to 1970. She established programs that helped move the college toward financial stability, including a joint degree program with a nursing school then operated by St. John’s Mercy Hospital.

Sr. McNally remained at Maryville for another four years after stepping down as president to serve as college treasurer and superior of the religious community.

She returned to Villa Duchesne in 1974 to serve for four years in various capacities, including treasurer, assistant librarian and alumnae liaison.

In 1978, she was transferred to Houston for eight years, serving four of those years as librarian for middle and upper schools at Duchesne Academy, Houston, and four years as community coordinator for Regis Hall, a Sacred Heart school for boys.

Sister McNally returned to St. Louis in 1986, where she worked as coordinator for City House and Villa Duchesne alumnae until her retirement to Oakwood in 1997.

Sister McNally served as a trustee of Maryville College for nearly two decades, from 1979 to 1997. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Maryville in 1978.

She retained the title trustee emeritus until her death.

In 1988, Villa Duchesne honored her by naming a main road on campus McNally Drive.

 In a 1993 tribute, Jeanne Burke O’Fallon of St. Louis, executive secretary of the national organization Associated Alumnae of the Sacred Heart, described Sr. McNally as Villa Duchesne’s “living alumnae directory, constantly updating her information through deep care and wide friendships,” as well as “an avid card player, and a woman who loves a party.”

Sr. McNally was a staunch St. Louis Cardinals fan. In her room at Oakwood, she displayed a large Cardinals banner and other memorabilia acquired over the years.

Sister McNally was predeceased by two brothers, Raymond McNally of St. Louis and Gerald McNally of Rumson, N.J.

Her funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop Pierre DuMaine, retired bishop of San Jose, California, Monday, December 19, at the convent in Atherton. A memorial Mass will be held in St. Louis, in the chapel of Villa Duchesne, at 11 a.m. Saturday, January 7, 2006.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4100 Forest Park Avenue, Suite A, St. Louis, MO 63108.