Faculty News

Campus Pays Tribute to Beloved Professor

Remembering Professor Maureen Leonard

By Mount Mary University

Posted on November 16, 2018

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Biology professor Maureen Leonard remembered as a spark of light,
an inspiration for all

When faculty, staff and students recall Maureen Leonard’s nine years at Mount Mary University, their stories are filled with examples of her wit, caring and dedication to students, as well as her innovation and commitment to science.

Leonard passed away unexpectedly on July 5, 2018.

“Many of us would not be aware of our potential if it wasn’t for you,” one student commented. “We hope our future works make you proud as you continue to watch us grow.”

Leonard taught biology from fall of 2009 through the spring of 2018. When Patricia Ahrens first offered her the job at Mount Mary, Maureen hesitated a few minutes when she learned she would be teaching microbiology and advanced microbiology in the first semester.

As a field biologist and animal behaviorist, she had never taken microbiology. Students would probably be surprised to know that, because she became an expert on the subject, spending that summer in a friend’s microbiology lab learning the techniques necessary to teach the course.

She earned a B.S. in Biology, Cum Laude in 1995 from State University of New York, Binghamton, NY, an M.S. in Biology from University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL in 1998, and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM in 2005.

Members of the faculty recall a colleague who helped others with technology, pedagogy, and support. She was the first professor to give a PED (pedagogical) talk with Paula Reiter to the Mount Mary faculty.

Maureen experimented with teaching strategies and was known as a campus pioneer for “flipping” her microbiology class, putting her lectures online and spending class time helping students learn how to think critically and problem solve.

She constantly improved all her courses by changing books and trying different pedagogical approaches. Other professors said she inspired them.

“What I loved about working with Maureen is that she never shied away from the difficult conversations,” said Reiter. “She spoke her mind clearly and without any fear.”

Throughout her career, Maureen was involved in national professional development initiatives:

  • She served on various review panels for the Animal Behavior Society; the National Center of Case Study Teaching in Science; the Journal of Molecular Biology and Biology Education; and the National Science Foundation.
  • Maureen was among the 14 academic scholars selected for the Biology Scholars Assessment Residency Program (BSARP). The program aids in developing measurable and effective courser objectives, mechanisms of assessments to show gaps in learning and gains in learning, and strategies to improve student learning.
  • She presented her research on the flipped classroom strategies at the American Society of Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE).
  • Maureen wrote multiple choice questions and online problem sets for the W.W. Norton Publishing Company microbiology textbook.

One of her final projects was assisting the university’s application for a grant from the National Science Foundation. S-STEM grant. She was co-principal investigator on the five-year grant that established the Jewel Scholars program, expanding access to STEM careers for women and underrepresented students. Scholarships and programming are provided to low-income, academically talented students studying chemistry, biology and food science.

Constantly experimenting and constantly improving, Leonard challenged her students to do the same. At her memorial service, they recalled how her high standards have influenced them.

“The students of Mount Mary would like to thank Dr. Leonard for her contributions to the Biology Department. You went above and beyond for your students, pushing us when you knew we needed it.

“You were one of the hardest professors most of us have ever had, but we are forever grateful for that,” the tribute continued. “Many of us would not be aware of our potential if it wasn’t for you. We made you crazy and vice versa, but your classes always came with a laugh. We hope our future works make you proud as you continue to watch us grow.

“Thank you for everything, Dr. Leonard. We really loved being a part of your life.”

Life lessons: Some simple steps to honor Maureen Leonard

Maureen Leonard was beloved all over campus for being witty, sarcastic, funny and helpful to everyone. She had the Irish gift of telling an excellent story, recalled friend and colleague Nan Metzger. In her eulogy, Nan suggested the following ways to honor her memory:

  1. If you see someone who needs help, lend a hand.
  2. Set high standards for yourself and do your best.
  3. Take care of something: a plant, some fish, a lame cat, your dog, your horse, your partner or your child.
  4. Help someone or something to grow.
  5. Mentor someone: When you get somewhere, look back and help those who are coming up behind you.
  6. When you get tired, take a break and go take a hike – literally. Go out to nature to replenish yourself, so you can come back and do it all again.

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