During Bellarmine’s emergence through Vision 2020 as a university of significant size and stature, much attention has been paid to the impressive outward changes—new residence halls, a three-story addition to Allen Hall, Bellarmine Centro.
But what has happened inside those buildings, and others, has been even more impressive: the creation of two new schools and two institutes; the launch of 20+ degrees and certificate programs, including three Ph.D.s; and a 25 percent increase in the number of full-time faculty.
And an integral part of turning vision into reality has been Dr. Doris A. Tegart, who retired on May 31 as Bellarmine’s interim president, a post she had held since the death in March 2016 of Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, her colleague, mentor and friend.
In 24 years at Bellarmine, Dr. Tegart also served as education dean, vice president for enrollment management, vice president for academic affairs and provost, steering the university’s instructional course and maintaining the balance between market and mission.
A faculty member since 1994 and member of Dr. McGowan’s leadership team since 1999, she was known for her common sense as much as for her fashion sense. She never trivialized difficult situations, but she also refused to over-dramatize them, using her trademark comic genius to help everyone keep their equilibrium, said Provost Carole Pfeffer.
“When I think of Doris, this first comes to mind: Work hard. Have fun. Make a difference,” Dr. Pfeffer said. “She challenged all of us to think innovatively. She chose people for positions of leadership, set high expectations, then got out of the way, [allowing] them to develop their talents in the service of Bellarmine.
“For me, her humor was like tonic for the spirit, and it was a rare day when Doris and I didn’t find ourselves ROARING with laughter about something. Numerous times, Dr. McGowan expressed out loud his concern about Doris and me sitting next to each other, worried that we would behave badly. He was right.”
Trustee Pat Mulloy, who just completed a six-year term as board chair, met Dr. Tegart when Dr. McGowan asked him to join the Academic Affairs Committee in 2007. “I’m a lawyer by training and a business person, and I was not at all an expert in the pedagogy of higher education. Doris helped run those committee meetings, and I learned a ton from her.”
She was also the first person he contacted after receiving the call that Dr. McGowan had died. “Doris was stand-up and strong and steadfast from Day One,” he said. “She has kept the train running, and the school has had another successful year.”
During Dr. Tegart’s interim presidency, the university reorganized the school’s health care education programs into a new College of Health Professions; completed the major Centro project; and acquired the radiation therapy program and the varsity wrestling team from St. Catharine College. Dr. Tegart also positioned Bellarmine to begin a master’s program in athletic training.
Just as important, she helped a shocked and grieving campus community recover from Dr. McGowan’s sudden passing with compassion, humor and grace.
Dr. Hunt Helm, vice president for communications and public affairs, recalled the Jeopardy-style Bellarmine trivia game that Dr. Tegart produced at her first President’s Breakfast. “It was hysterically funny, of course,” Dr. Helm said, “but really it brought us all back to the ground together, with shared values, shared memories and a sense of cultural continuity and mission. It was the connection we needed, and it was a signal: Time to get back to normal.”
At the 2016 Spring Commencement, Dr. Tegart announced a new tradition: the McGowan Medal. Dr. McGowan “helped me be where I am today,” she said. “Graduates, somebody did that for you.” She encouraged them to give the medal to that person, and to become mentors themselves.
In February, the Board of Trustees announced that Dr. Susan M. Donovan would be Bellarmine’s fourth president. Mr. Mulloy invited Dr. Tegart to join the meet-and-greet in Frazier Hall, but she demurred, saying, “This is her day.”
“Then someone in the meeting mentioned Dr. Tegart’s name, and there was just this spontaneous, long round of applause,” he said. “That was a reflection that Doris is loved and well-regarded and well-respected all over that campus, from people from every place in that school. I’m just thankful for her. She did everything we asked of her, and did it gracefully. And we are so appreciative.”
Carla Carlton | email@example.com