England to step down after 10 years at Regis

BRAINTREE -- A noted figure in local Catholic education who led her alma mater through a period of unparalleled growth as its president and who helped two archbishops steer the Archdiocese of Boston through a tumultuous period in its history will be stepping aside next year.

Mary Jane England will be stepping down as president of Regis College, a Catholic liberal arts and sciences institution in Weston, in June 2011. England, a 1959 graduate of Regis and its first lay president, was given a 10-year contract when she took the helm at the local Catholic college in 2001.

A search for her replacement is being conducted, she said.

“We’ve had some difficult and historic decisions to make, but here Regis stands, serving multicultural, diverse and intergenerational student populations, guiding them in pathways toward the professional success they seek, and creating curricular options that meet the needs of the contemporary marketplace,” England said in a media release issued by the college. “We have expanded our graduate programs, broadened our commitments to intergenerational learning.”

England, a trained psychiatrist who worked in the public health field before becoming president of Regis, said she hopes to continue her career in health policy and public health. She said she does not have any specific plans yet.

However, she said she hopes to continue actively assisting the Boston archdiocese.

“I’m very proud of what Cardinal O’Malley has done,” said England, a parishioner at St. Columbkille Parish in Brighton. “I will work with the diocese in any way I can.”

England has aided Cardinal O’Malley in revitalizing Catholic education in the archdiocese. England, and other local Catholic college and university presidents, periodically meet with Cardinal O’Malley to discuss ways to strengthen Catholic elementary and secondary education in the archdiocese.

During her tenure, she said Regis has provided health clinics to Catholic schools in the archdiocese, and has hosted a summer training program in math and science for Catholic school teachers.

Along with Regis’ Board of Trustees, she also initiated a series of four-year scholarships for graduates of Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.

However, her assistance to the archdiocese has gone beyond Catholic schools.

In 2002 she was part of the task force that implemented some of the archdiocese’s responses to the sexual abuse crisis. The board implemented training for Catholic school and CCD students to recognize signs of sexual abuse. England, along with her executive assistant at Regis, Mary Jane Doherty, has worked with the archdiocese in developing a “fair process” for accused priests and providing services to victims, she said.

Prior to that, she served on the Board of Trustees for Catholic Charities.

During her tenure at Regis, England helped settle the school’s financial situations and increase its enrollment.

When England came to Regis, she was charged with making the school financially solvent after years of deficit spending.

“We were in serious financial difficulty,” she recalled.

She said that revenue from tuition has doubled during her tenure, and the school also receives about $1 million of federal grants for academics and financial aid each year.

Over the last 10 years, Regis’ operating budget has grown by $10 million.

Academically, England helped create two schools within Regis College -- the School of Liberal Arts, Education and Social Sciences and the School of Nursing, Science, and Health Professions.

Four years ago, she said the school launched its first doctoral program -- a course of study for nurse practitioners, which will graduate 13 students this spring, up from 10 in 2009.

“In the greater Boston area, the need is tremendous for people trained in the sciences and health care,” England said.

She said graduate enrollment has grown around 200 percent during her time as president. Undergraduate enrollment has risen 17 percent. Today, Regis enrolls about 1,700 students, up from 600 when England became president.

The school also built new athletic fields and updated its technology under her watch.

However, she said she was most proud of guiding Regis’ 2007 transition from an all-female college to a co-educational institution. She credited supportive students, alumni, and faculty, as well as advice from nearby Emmanuel College in Boston, which had also recently become co-ed, for the transition.

“It’s a sign of the times,” England said. “The data is very clear that young women want to go to co-ed institutions.”

She said that due to the decision, the number of female applicants to the college has increased.

Eight years ago, England added, Regis College launched a non-degree academic program for senior citizens.

“Mary Jane England has been a visionary leader for Regis. Working closely with the board, she has ensured that the college has a future and built up the college’s foundation in the community values of its founders, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, while providing students opportunities to become successful professionals in today’s world,” said Ellen O’Connor, chair of the board at Regis. “Regis has benefited mightily during her decade at the helm.”