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Marylhurst President 'Dusts Off' University's Identity

Excerpt from an article by Ed Langlois in the Catholic Sentinel, September 19, 2012.

During a funeral at St. Mary's Cathedral in summer 2011, Judith Johansen gained spiritual clarity.

She had been president of Marylhurst University for three years, hired for leadership skills, business sense and savoir-faire in educational mission. Though a Lutheran, she valued the Marylhurst's Catholic heritage and admired the Holy Names Sisters who'd founded the school in 1893. One of her early projects was, as she puts it, to "dust off" Marylhurst's Catholic identity. She knew that a college, if it's to authentically explore the world, must first be rooted in something.

During that funeral for philanthropist Mary Clark, Johansen felt hit by what she likens to lightning. She wanted to join the Catholic Church, the church of the Sisters, the church of Mary Clark, the church of Catholic Charities, the church of so many good people she had met over the previous years.

"Why wouldn't I want to be part of that?" Johansen says. "It's the living out of the social values of the community that I like."

Johansen made her profession of faith this June in the Marylhurst chapel.

After Johansen was hired in 2008, it became evident to her that Marylhurst's Catholic identity had become vague.

"I thought that was odd," she says. "I thought 'We are what we are. Let's not hide that. We are Catholic.'"

She convened sessions to develop a vision. What emerged was the body of values brought by the founding Sisters — accommodating to all, but clearly Catholic.

"We welcome people of all walks of life. We are not converting people," she says. "But we are the oldest Catholic university in Oregon."

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