Dr. Doris A. Tegart, who steered Bellarmine University’s academic course for 24 years with humor, tenacity and style, including a term as interim president, died Sept. 14 at Norton Suburban Hospital in Louisville. She was 67.
Born in Leavenworth, Ind., Dr. Tegart began her rich career in education as a teacher at Leavenworth Elementary before earning her doctorate in education from Indiana University in Bloomington. She also held a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University.
She joined the Bellarmine faculty in 1994 and became a member of President Joseph J. McGowan’s leadership team in 1999, eventually serving as education dean, vice president for enrollment management, vice president of academic affairs and provost. She was an integral part of Bellarmine’s strategic growth and overarching culture, as well as the university’s chief academic officer. During her tenure, the university increased the number of full-time faculty by 25 percent and overall student enrollment by 35 percent and launched 23 new academic programs, including its first Ph.D. program.
Dr. Tegart oversaw all seven academic schools and the launches of varied entrepreneurial ventures, including two new schools and two new institutes; and stewarded the university’s accreditation. She viewed academic entrepreneurship as “a delicate balance between market and mission.”
Her breakneck meeting schedule and 3 a.m. emails caused some co-workers to speculate that Dr. Tegart didn’t sleep. “I sleep just as much as everybody else,” she once said. “I go to bed really early—at 8 or 9 o’clock—and get up at 3 and check messages, and I can’t help but respond.”
She was a huge basketball fan, following the Knights to numerous away games, and was universally admired for her dramatic fashion accessories. As the subject of a Q&A in Bellarmine Magazine, she was asked how many scarves she owned. Her response: “If tied together they would reach from New Albany to Louisville. Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, there were certain fashion rules you did not break and wearing too many accessories at once was one of the big infractions. I heard my home economics teacher say more than once, ‘If in doubt, leave it out.’ That is just one of the home economics axioms that were lost on me.”
In November 2014, Cottey College, a liberal arts women’s college in Nevada, Missouri, announced that Dr. Tegart, then Bellarmine’s provost, would become its 12th president the following June. Almost immediately after that announcement, she fell severely ill with what would eventually be diagnosed as ovarian cancer and had to turn down the job. The treatments are so hard on patients that many won’t consent to them, but Dr. Tegart never considered another option. “My doctor would say, ‘Are you up for this next treatment?’ and I would say, ‘I’m going to crawl down this hall before I stop. I’m not going to blink,’” she told Bellarmine Magazine.
After receiving a clean bill of health, she came back to work at Bellarmine as executive vice president. Then, in March 2016, she lost a mentor and dear friend when Dr. McGowan died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism. The Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Tegart as interim president at its April meeting, and she helped a shocked and grieving campus community recover with compassion and grace.
During her interim presidency, Bellarmine reorganized the school’s health care education programs into a new College of Health Professions; acquired a radiation therapy program and varsity wrestling team from St. Catharine College; and began developing a master’s program in athletic training. Dr. Tegart retired from Bellarmine in May 2017.
At Dr. Tegart’s funeral, attendees were urged to continue working on behalf of others. “Doris saw education as a vocation through which she could do that,” said Dr. Carole Pfeffer, her friend and Bellarmine’s provost. Noting that Dr. Tegart wore a Wonder Woman bracelet every day, Dr. Pfeffer said she embodied a quote from the superhero: “So I stay, I fight and I give, for the world I know can be.”
Bellarmine has established a Faculty Development Fund to honor Dr. Doris Tegart’s passion for teaching. To contribute, visit www.bellarmine.edu/give, click on “other,” type in Faculty Development and indicate that your gift is in Dr. Tegart’s memory.