CDU President Emeritus Dr. Marianne Evans Mount is pictured with Cardinal
Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Chancellor Archbishop Timothy P.
Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

At the Catholic Distance University (CDU) 40th anniversary gala on November 17, 2023,
President Emeritus Dr. Marianne Evans Mount was named a Dame of The Order of St. Gregory
the Great, the highest honor a layperson can receive from the Catholic Church.

Serving as Pope Francis’ personal representative, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio
to the United States, presented the award to Dr. Mount at the Army Navy Country Club in
Arlington, Virginia. University Chancellor Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for
the Military Services, USA, initiated the award nomination with the Holy See.

Fewer than 10 women have received this honor since the Order of St. Gregory the Great began
admitting Dames in addition to Knights in 1994. Other notable recipients of the award include
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics; Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán;
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson; and American publisher, philanthropist, and diplomat Walter
Hubert Annenberg.

Dr. Mount currently serves as a consultor to the Holy See’s Dicastery for Culture and Education
in recognition of her many contributions to the innovative realm of Catholic distance education.
“Dr. Marianne Mount is a jewel in the crown for Catholic education,” said trustee Hon. Susan R.
Malone. “She’ll be remembered for being the first. She had a vision for the future, for Catholic
education.” Hon. Malone is also a first: in 1973, she was one of the first two female FBI agents.

Cardinal Pierre presented Dr. Mount with an eight-pointed cross, suspended from a red and
gold ribbon and a crown of laurel. The center of the cross bears an image of St. Gregory on the
obverse and on the reverse the motto Pro Deo et Principe, “For God and Ruler.” She also
received a diploma written in Latin bearing the signature and seal of the Cardinal Secretary of

Pope Gregory XVI established the Order of St. Gregory the Great in September 1831; it is one of
five orders of knighthood of the Holy See. Admittance is bestowed upon Roman Catholic men
and women—and rarely, non-Catholics—in recognition of their personal service to the Holy See
and to the Roman Catholic Church, through their unusual labors, their support of the Holy See,
and their excellent examples set forth in their communities and their countries.

Dr. Mount’s “unusual labor” was the growth of CDU from a catechetical institute offering
correspondence courses to an exclusively online, highly-rated accredited university that enrolls
students worldwide. “This is an example of the mustard seed parable lived out magnificently,”
said trustee Kelly McGinn.

During Dr. Mount’s 40-year career at CDU, she held various leadership roles, finally serving as
president from 2008 to June 30, 2023. Speaking of the institution’s founding, Dr. Mount said,
“We had a lot of opposition. No one really thought you could form people by correspondence.
It had to be face-to-face, and we proved them wrong.”

Since offering its first accredited degree program in 1996, a Master of Arts in Religious Studies,
the university has educated thousands of students, and many continue to serve the Church.
Most alumni are employed in a wide variety of fields, including education, business, healthcare,
medicine, and law, and some have become deacons, priests, and religious.

Speaking of CDU in a video presented at the gala, Father Robert J. Spitzer, founder and
President of the Spitzer Center, said, “You’ve not only educated generations of people in faith
and reason, you’ve formed a cadre of evangelists through that education that’s going to extend
your mission far beyond what you ever dreamt of.”

Dr. Mount, who joined CDU in 1983, is credited with being the driving force behind the
university’s growth and success.

“Marianne took that football and ran to a goalpost that was far beyond what anyone
expected,” said longtime CDU supporter Treena Rinaldi, who is the niece of Bishop Thomas J.
Welsh, the first Bishop of Arlington who established CDU and recruited Dr. Mount to be one of
two initial staff members.

When Dr. Mount retired in 2023, the university had launched a new program in Catholic Social
Teaching, both in Spanish and English, with support from a nearly $1 million grant from the Lilly
Endowment. Under her leadership, the university, which had been accredited by the Distance
Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) since 1986, also secured accreditation from the
Higher Learning Commission in 2022, and The Association of Theological Schools in 2020.

With the university’s third president, Dr. Maria Sophia Aguirre, at the helm, CDU is positioned
to become the “university of the future.” Dr. Aguirre seeks to greatly expand the university’s
degree offerings into new disciplines, to advance a research agenda that will seek to foster
synergies across faculty and students of different countries across the sciences, and increase
the university’s global expansion.—Mary Kate White, Catholic Distance University