Founders Award

Mary Dempsey

Mary Dempsey

Mary Dempsey is President of DePaul College Prep, a co-ed Catholic high school serving Chicago and surrounding suburbs.  She previously served as the first Chair of the Board of Directors of the school, from its founding in July 2014 until January 2016 when she was elected by the Board as the President of the school. She is responsible for the administration of DePaul College Prep and for the implementation of the school’s strategic plan, Faith in our Future:Vision 2020.

Mary Dempsey has also served as President of the Philip H. Corboy Foundation since 2004.  The work of the Foundation is devoted to education, arts and culture, social justice, access to the courts and preserving the rights of the disabled.

From 1994 to 2012, she served as Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library. She was appointed to the position by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1994 and reappointed Library Commissioner by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May 2011. The Library is comprised of more than 800 employees in 79 neighborhood locations. Its mission is to promote and preserve intellectual freedom and access to resources that promote lifelong learning and quality of life for all people. Under her direction, 44 new libraries were constructed in Chicago, 13 of which are LEED certified.  Also under her direction, all libraries were equipped with state of the art technology including free desktop and WiFi access to the Internet; access to more than 80 online databases; rich book collections; and innovative reading and digital learning initiatives such as One Book, One Chicago  and YOUmedia.  Under her leadership, the Chicago Public Library successfully concluded two 5 year strategic plans, and began development of a third.

From 1982 to 1993, Ms. Dempsey practiced law in Chicago.

Mary holds a B.A. from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, an M.L.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a J.D. from DePaul University.  She is a past Chair and continues to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees of DePaul University; was the first Chair of the Board of Directors of DePaul College Prep and continues to serve as a member of the Board of Directors; founding Chair of the Leader Council of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls and member of Mercy’s Board of Regents; a member of the Board and Executive Committee of the Big Shoulders Fund; a member of the Board of the Frances Xavier Warde School; a member of the Advisory Board of Misericordia; a member of the Board of the Polk Bros. Foundation and is a past Chair of the Urban Libraries Council.

Ms. Dempsey is the recipient of five honorary degrees, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of DePaul University, a Laureate of the Lincoln Academy and has received numerous awards for her work including the Chicago History Museum’s 2014 Making History Award in Literature.  In 2016, she was the Guest of Honor of  the City of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.