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Omaha Marian High president to retire after big renovation project

Omaha Marian High president to retire after big renovation project

Marian High School President Mary Higgins has announced that she will retire after the 2021-22 school year, but before that, she will help steer another big campus renovation project.

This one is aimed at improving the school’s outdoor sports facilities and will include an artificial turf soccer field and a new track.

Higgins said the improvements are “long overdue.”

Higgins, 70, is heading into her eighth year as president of the all-girls Catholic school in Omaha.

She said she’s “deeply honored to have served the Marian community and to have helped position Marian to serve a new generation of young women.”

She is an alumna from the class of 1969.

Higgins said she actually attended kindergarten at Marian, back when it was offered.

Her daughter, Julie Schaefer, a 2007 alumna, is a physician in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Higgins was president of the Marian Alumnae Board from 2012 to 2014 and served on the Marian Board of Directors from 2005 to 2011, leading several committees and serving as board chair. She co-chaired MarianFEST in 2005.

She said her greatest challenge as president was raising money for a major building renovation that transformed the look and feel of the school.

In September 2019, Marian officials dedicated the $9.2 million renovation and addition.

The school got a new main entrance; a secure, welcoming lobby; an airy, comfortable academic center; and an intimate chapel accented with symbolic stained-glass windows. A cafeteria upgrade provided for quicker service and a better menu.

In addition to raising money for the building renovation, donors provided another $3 million for the school’s endowment.

Marian officials anticipate that work will start on the school’s latest project in late summer or early fall. They estimate it will cost between $4 million and $5 million.

Projects include:

Construction of a new track and soccer field to replace the existing track.

Installation of artificial turf on the existing soccer field along with a new press box.

A plaza and new concession stand to provide a gathering spot for fans and athletes.

An improved drainage system, more modern and uniform fencing and new lanes for parking in the lower lot.

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Higgins said the current track is “abysmal” and the concession stand “quite lame.”

“A turf soccer field will be just a wonderful feature so that we can have lots more practices, much fewer rainouts,” she said. “We can provide availability to community groups as works within our schedule. Same for our track.”

Marian High is the only Class A school in the state without an artificial turf field, school officials said.

Higgins said she thought about retiring a year ago, but she held off because of the pandemic to avoid “throwing any additional wrenches into the mix.”

By setting her retirement date a year out, she’s giving the search committee time to find a replacement.

The committee will begin working this summer to meet a leadership transition date of June 2022.

Beth McCarthy Engel, who’s chairing the committee, said Higgins’ passion for and commitment to Marian are unwavering.

“We are so happy for her as she begins her retirement next summer,” Engel said, “and we look forward to progressing Marian’s mission as we seek our new president.”

The president handles external affairs such as fundraising, recruitment and alumni. That contrasts with the principal, who is the internal administrator of the school, overseeing curriculum, discipline, policies and faculty hirings.


joe.dejka@owh.com, 402-444-1077

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Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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