Notre Dame principal takes on interim president role
By Lois Rogers | CorrespondentWhen it comes to plans, it doesn’t pay to second guess the Holy Spirit.
Mary Liz Ivins – the new interim president of Lawrenceville’s Notre Dame High School – admits that her original life plan was to “become a guidance counselor, work somewhere, marry and have 12 children.”
That vision evaporated shortly after she returned home from graduating in 1976 from St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, with a bachelor of science degree in psychology. Accepted to Rutgers University’s master’s program for counseling, she delayed attending for a year to raise money for tuition.
“In the last week of August, a friend called and said that St. Anthony High School [now Trenton Catholic Academy] needed a religion teacher,” Ivins recalled. “I had never thought about teaching religion but went for the interview.”
“I started teaching the next week, found such joy and never looked back. I moved ‘home’ to Notre Dame three years later, earned master’s degrees in Christian education and education administration and let God lead the way.”
In hindsight, it was a perfectly plausible path to follow considering her background. Coming from a traditional Catholic family, all of the siblings – five sisters and two brothers – began academic life at Incarnation School, Ewing, and went on to Notre Dame High School.
“Learning and growing up in a Catholic educational community was important to my parents and became natural and nurturing for all of us,” she said.
“Our faith grew through the small, daily references found in those schools to the God who loves us,” she continued. “We were surrounded by real life experiences of faith at home and at school,” said Ivins, who shared that throughout her school experience, she felt strengthened by the knowledge that “God will never leave you alone.”
“It was not what they said that built our faith. It was how they lived each day with us,” she said.
After earning master’s degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Lawrenceville’s Rider University, she returned to Notre Dame as a religious studies teacher in 1979. She was named department chairperson of religious studies in 1982, a position she held until 1989, when she was tapped to serve as assistant principal for student life.
In 2001, she became Notre Dame’s Principal, a post she has held for the past 17 years, ending when she accepted the role of interim president in July.
Along with her service to Notre Dame, Ivins has served in a number of capacities including as a member of the St. Ann School advisory board in Lawrenceville and the St. Gregory the Great School, Hamilton Square, advisory board. On a diocesan level, she was a member of the educational advisory board from 2008 to 2011.
Professionally, Ivins has been a member of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association since 2015, where she is currently first vice president. She was a member of the diocesan marriage commission from 2014 to 2015, and she is a member of the AdvancEd Visiting Accreditation Teams.
Ivins said her plan had been to finish her career at Notre Dame as principal, but once more, the plan had to be changed.
“Notre Dame needed an interim president, and it felt like the right thing to do,” she said.
Currently, she’s setting her goals and moving forward. She spent the summer monitoring the progress of the renovation of the auditorium and “preparing marketing materials with our exceptional staff for the coming year’s enrollment work.”
“One of my biggest goals for this year is to reconnect ND alumni to their alma mater. Notre Dame is an exceptionally vibrant and successful Catholic school community,” she said. “I will be reaching out to all who have grown in this wonderful place, asking them to join me in making sure ND continues to thrive for generations to come.”