Mary Cunningham Agee, wife and mother, corporate executive, entrepreneur, author, lecturer, philanthropist, compassionate friend to young mothers, faithful daughter of the Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.
Essential to the mission of the Church, Blessed John Paul II taught us, is our solidarity with each man and each woman, for the Church must live the solidarity of Christ himself. “This ‘love-solidarity' stands out in the entire earthly life and mission of the Son of Man, especially in regard to those who suffer under the weight of misery, whether physical or moral” (General Audience, Feb. 10. 1988). This is so in that “…man [and woman]-every man [and woman] without any exception whatever-has been redeemed by Christ, and because with man [and woman]-with each man [and woman] without any exception whatever-Christ is in a way united, even when man [and woman] is unaware of it” (Redemptor Hominis [vatican] , 14).
You have placed your very considerable gifts in solidarity with women who “suffer under the weight of misery”, both physical and moral, who would otherwise be unaware that Christ has united himself with each of them.
A native of Falmouth, Maine, you graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Wellesley College in 1973 with a BA in philosophy. Having completed the MBA in Finance and International Business in 1979 from the Harvard Business School, you entered the corporate world, employed in the Corporate Banking Department of the Chase Manhattan Bank, and in the Corporate Finance Department of Salomon Brothers. You went on to serve as Vice President of Strategic Planning for the Bendix Corporation, and then accepted the position of Vice-President of Strategic Planning at Joseph E. Seagram and Sons where, within one year, you were promoted to Executive Vice-President of the newly formed Seagram Wine Company. In 1981 and 1982 you were voted one of the “25 Most Influential Women in America” by World Almanac.
Married in 1982, you miscarried your first child, whom you had named Angela Grace. Confronting this personal tragedy in faith revealed to you your kinship in suffering with pregnant women who are alone, whether directly abandoned or without adequate support in their desire to give life: suffering opened for you an encounter with others on their own terms. And so, in 1985 you founded The Nurturing Network to, in your own words, “find a place at the inn” for young women “whose own support networks have let them down.” You employed your mastery of corporate strategy to address their needs: to provide counseling, medical, financial and legal assistance, educational and employment opportunities and homes affording “an authentic and life-affirming choice” for young mothers. You now preside over a vast network of over 50,000 volunteers throughout every state in this union, and in 30 foreign countries, and have assisted over 20,000 young mothers.
The greatest tributes to your work are those of the young mothers you have served: “I want to thank you so much for reaching the heart of what it means to experience a crisis pregnancy. There is so much pain and so many emotional, educational and financial problems. There are job worries too. No one really wants an abortion. It is chosen at least most of the time because no other option seems to exist. You have identified the heart of the problem.”
You have, indeed, identified the heart of the problem and have wonderfully provided a solution. In the Intellectual Life the great Dominican, Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges remarked that “Every truth is practical; the most apparently abstract, the loftiest, is also the most practical. Every truth is life, direction, a way leading to the end of man.” The work of this school is, above all, to seek that truth that is the most practical, and we recognize in your solidarity with young mothers a mirror of the truth that we seek. We are deeply honored that you have consented to join with us in our common work.
Therefore, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority invested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon you, Mary Cunningham Agee, the degree of Doctor of Humane Lettershonoris causa, and to name you as a Fellow of the School.