Town Talk Features

Get to Know: Regina Mooney

After living extensively on both coasts, Dr. Regina Mooney landed in St. Louis to bring her considerable experience in education administration to the young women of St. Joseph’s Academy. Her role as president, a capstone on a varied and fascinating career, includes finalizing a strategic plan for the school. Mooney brings a distinctive style, grand vision and sparkling wit to the next evolution of this highly regarded institution, striving to create a balanced trifecta of arts, academics and athletics that will mold future generations of strong women and bold leaders.

east coast origins
I’m originally from Connecticut and grew up in the same house on the shoreline. I was of the generation where parents kicked the kids out of the house and we didn’t come home until dinner. We lived in the country right between two sheep farms on Long Island Sound, so there was lots of trouble to get into. It was pretty idyllic. I also lived in Massachusetts for a good part of my adult life.

my cwe home
I feel fortunate. I wanted to live in a mixed neighborhood so I could better understand the issues of race that are cast in a particular way in the area.

thoughts on the lou
People are lovely here. They are fun and engaging; they like to laugh but also work hard. The distinctive thing about St. Louis is that everyone knows each other, and the high school culture is very different than anywhere I have ever worked before. People are very loyal to their schools, which is a positive thing.

my path into education administration
I describe myself as having a vagabond career. I’ve always liked to go places where I could do some good. After getting a bachelor’s in philosophy, I earned two master’s degrees from Yale in ministry and sacred theology, as well as a Ph.D. from Claremont. I’ve had several roles in higher education in California, Oregon, Washington and across the East Coast. Then I realized I really wanted to work with high school kids.

why i came to st. joseph’s academy
This school is who I am. It is a wonderful Catholic environment that challenges girls to grow spiritually, academically and emotionally—in every way. Spiritual formation is a real thing here. When I was interviewing, I felt there was something special going on, and I wanted to be part of it. It’s a dynamic place, and I’m helping take it to the next level.

ecumenism at home 
Growing up Catholic in an Irish Catholic enclave, ecumenism wasn’t about going to a synagogue, temple or even a mosque. It was going to the Polish Catholic church instead of the Irish Catholic church. When I had my son Jacob (now 23 years old), I agreed to raise him in the Jewish faith. I thought I would raise any children I had Catholic since that is my faith, but my decision has been a real gift to me. On Friday night, I was euphemistically a Catholic Jew and on Sunday morning, I was a Jewish Catholic. I’ve always appreciated the rituals, rich history and beauty of both religions. My son’s bar mitzvah was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. I was in tears.

my commitment to diversity
I wrote a master’s thesis on resolving historical evils within a social concept of reality. The historical social evil I wrote about was racism. What would it mean if we actually decided to own our history? And how do we move forward? We have worked hard on diversity at St. Joseph’s. We have a diversity policy statement, and we hired an outreach coordinator and conducted a full diversity audit. We want diversity of thought, expertise and interest as well as ethnic diversity. It makes any institutional culture richer.

on creating change 
I organize ideas and make them happen to make people proud of their school. I could have retired from my last job in Seattle, but I saw something at St. Joseph’s that I thought was extraordinary. And to take something extraordinary and make it better is a pretty good capstone on a career.

what’s next for st. joe
We are working on building a state-of-the-art college advising and academic center. It’s for seniors who want to publish research and for students who need help with study skills or a writing project.

meant to be
I was a Catholic school girl at St. Mary’s, an all girl’s school in New Haven, Connecticut. Interestingly, we had the same uniforms as we have at St. Joe—same plaid, same sweater vest. There is a Yiddish expression, ‘bashert,’ which means ‘meant to be or destiny.’ It certainly feels like home.

preparing women for the future
I use my son as an example when talking to parents about college. Jacob works in computer science but majored in philosophy. And that’s why he got hired—for his liberal arts education and his ability to think. The future really is about thinking and writing, logic and adaptability. I encourage families to consider the liberal arts and to allow gap years. It rearranges the furniture in the brain so you can see more opportunities.