Mary Conlon Named 2019 Valedictorian for Saint Mary's

2019 Class Valedictorian Mary Conlon.Saint Mary’s College is pleased to announce that Mary Conlon ’19 has been chosen as the class valedictorian for her outstanding academic achievements and service to the SMC community. Conlon has majored in English with a Single Subject Matter Preparation emphasis. She has also minored in Women’s and Gender Studies and the Justice, Community, and Leadership 4+1 Program. She was the co-creator and co-facilitator of Facing the Canon: Women and Violence in Seminar Texts last March, and has worked with the Student Coalition Against Abuse and Rape since 2016. Conlon has a GPA of 3.956, which demonstrates her dedication to her studies.

“I am so honored to have been selected as the valedictorian for the class of 2019,” said Conlon. “I have cherished being a part of the Saint Mary’s community, and it is such a privilege to get to represent them at the Commencement ceremony. I look forward to sharing with the graduating class and our loved ones what I have learned during my four years here and my hopes for our future.”

Conlon has been devoted to the SMC community, serving as an orientation leader for New Student and Family Programs for two years and a Weekend of Welcome leader for three years. She was a VDay cast member for the Center for Women and Gender Equity’s events in both 2017 and 2018, writing original pieces for both. A member of the Riverrun editing staff for two years (serving on the poetry and nonfiction teams), she also worked with Gael Force from 2015 to 2019, and the Gael Sisterhood from 2015 to 2017.

And she’s managed to successfully merge her work with her studies. “Within my own academic disciplines—English, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Justice, Community, and Leadership-Single Subject 4+1 track—I saw the way that our daily lives and our studies are intimately linked. Our community on campus reflects society at large, so issues of equity and justice are just as relevant in our classrooms as they are on Capitol Hill,” Conlon wrote in her application essay.

“Mary Conlon is truly the best of us,” says Vice Provost for Student Academics and Dean of the Core Megan Mustain. “She has an exemplary academic record, gives the gift of her leadership in nurturing the intellectual and co-curricular life of our campus community, and generously shares her profound commitment to ensuring that ‘respect for all persons’ is truly and fully lived at Saint Mary's College. I am grateful for all she has brought to Saint Mary's. I am amazed at the person she has become, and excited at the thought of all she will do.”

Assistant Dean of Students/Director of New Student and Family Programs Jennifer Herzog commended Conlon in a letter of support. “As I was deciding what I would write about in this letter, I kept coming back to one thought: Mary is the personification of our Saint Mary’s values.…She has the innate ability to bring out the best in others. Mary’s passion for equality and social justice guides her actions, and her values are reflected in her choice of involvement,” Herzog wrote.

“If she is not directly involved in an activity, Mary is often supporting the cause, especially if it is related to social justice,” Herzog added.

Professor and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program Denise Witzig also applauded Conlon’s efforts in a rousing letter of recommendation, lauding her writing and public speaking skills, and her “service in behalf of diverse communities.”

“Her commitment to intellectual purpose, her focus and great insight on social justice issues, her self-discipline, thoughtfulness, and desire to achieve point to Mary Conlon’s legacy of success at Saint Mary’s and her sure future successes on her professional path. She embodies the mission of the College and its three traditions,” Witzig wrote.

Conlon will return in the fall for a fifth year to complete her Single Subject Teaching Credential and Master of Arts in Education. “I’m planning to be a high school English teacher, planning to stay in the Bay Area, but we’ll see what the future has to say about that,” Conlon said.

“I think Saint Mary’s has prepared me very well, and that the three departments have shaped me as a teacher and a person, shaped me in my material and in my view of the world,” Conlon added recently. “I know I will be a better person and teacher because of being here. Also, the leadership opportunities I’ve had here have prepared me to be a better leader in my career and future communities.”

Conlon will address the graduating class at Commencement on Saturday, May 25, at 9 a.m. in the Stadium. U.S. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier will be featured as the 2019 Commencement speaker.

All students who meet the eligibility of more than a 3.75 GPA are invited to submit an application for valedictorian. The application includes a résumé and a list of student involvement in both academic and co-curricular activities on campus, such as academic clubs, student clubs, student government, and participation in athletic teams. A selection committee comprised of five senior class officers, the associated dean of students, and the vice provost for student academics reviewed candidates’ résumés and essays that explained why they wanted to be the valedictorian, and what the College’s Catholic and Lasallian mission and liberal arts traditions have meant to them as a student. Thirty-seven students sent in valedictorian applications, and nine were selected for interviews.