Recognition of Exceptional Alumnae Kicks Off Reunion Weekend 2024

On Friday, April 26, 2024, Merion Mercy Academy kicked off Reunion Weekend with the 2nd annual Alumnae Awards ceremony, which recognized four alumnae who have distinguished themselves professionally and within the school community.

In her welcome, Head of School Marianne Grace reflected on the contributions of these esteemed graduates:

“As alumnae of this remarkable school, you are an integral part of its rich history and tradition. Your accomplishments in your personal and professional lives are a testament to the education and values that were instilled in you during your time here.” 

This year’s recipients were:

Clare Nicholson Zimmerman ‘04 - Young Alumnae Award

Recognizing established and future leaders among Merion Mercy alumnae who have graduated in the past 20 years, the Young Alumnae Award is presented to a graduate who has shown great promise and accomplishment in her chosen profession and/or in community, public or humanitarian service, demonstrating leadership and substantial commitment to the mission of Merion Mercy.

Awardee Clare Nicholson Zimmerman ‘04 embodies those qualities in her work as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State. Currently, she is the acting economic unit chief in Santiago, Chile, where she leads a team advancing U.S. economic interests in that country. 

Clare has a master’s degree in Trade and Investment Policy from the George Washington University where she received a Career Development Fellowship, and bachelor’s degrees in Spanish, History, and International Studies from the Pennsylvania State University. 

In her video recorded remarks from Chile, Clare reflected on three aspects of her Merion Mercy education that made the greatest impact on her career path: 

  • MMA’s commitment to service and the greater good

  • Her introduction to foreign languages (today she is fluent in Spanish and speaks some German and Latvian)

  • Opportunities for leadership

She encouraged current students to “take advantage of all the opportunities and experiences Merion Mercy has to offer and to consider a rewarding career in public service.” 

Read more about Clare on our website.

Kirsten Echelmeier Sams ‘99 - Spirit of Mercy Award

This award honors an alumna who has given of her time and talent for the benefit of Merion Mercy Academy. The awardee serves as an ambassador for MMA and has demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the school. She has a passion for Merion Mercy’s mission to educate young women in academics and faith. 

Kirsten Echelmeier Sams ‘99 has been a staple in the halls of her alma mater. Her love of her high school shows brightly in the many ways she gives back.  She currently serves on the Alumnae Association Board and teaches in the Katherine Drexel program, which gives students from underserved communities of Philadelphia and surrounding areas the opportunity to come to Merion Mercy on Saturdays for academic enrichment.

Coming from a long legacy of Merion Mercy alumnae, Kirsten said, “This honor is a direct reflection of community. You find yourself surrounded when you need it the most.” She encouraged students to “be who you are in every moment, unabashedly,” and reminded them to give themselves grace and mercy. 

Learn more about Kirsten on our website.

Maripeg Mita Bruder ‘74 - Catherine McCauley Award

The Catherine McAuley Award's purpose is to acknowledge a member of the Merion Mercy community who has demonstrated excellence in their field, contributed to the church and community, and/or shown a commitment to Mercy values through volunteerism. Recipients of this award are individuals who embody the spirit of Catherine McAuley in their daily lives. 

Maripeg Mita Bruder ‘74 is chair of the board of trustees at the Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center, where she first became involved in 2008 as co-host of one of the organization’s first fundraisers. As time progressed, Mission Kids became Ms. Bruder’s passion; in 2010 she joined the board and two years later was elected as chairman.

Maripeg is passionate about eradicating child abuse. She understands the devastating effect of the human trafficking of young children and its widespread progression. Prevention education efforts are so important to Maripeg that she has been trained in the Darkness to Light program as a facilitator, which allows her to train and empower adults to recognize the signs of, and to prevent, child sexual abuse.

In accepting the MCauley Award, Maripeg further detailed the work of Mission Kids and communicated her dedication to the organization that has grown significantly under her leadership. She reminded students of their calling to make a difference, even with a simple smile. 

To learn more about Maripeg, visit the Alumnae Awards page of our website.

Marianne Corr ‘74 - Distinguished Alumnae Award 

Given to an alumna who has reached the highest level in her field and has demonstrated exceptional talent within her career, the Distinguished Alumnae Award recognizes an individual who exemplifies the ideals of a Mercy education and has used the visibility, power, or leadership of her position to better the community and serve the greater good.

Recipient Marianne Corr ‘74 has exemplified those qualities throughout her long legal career. 

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame where she studied Government and International Relations, Marianne proceeded to earn her law degree at Duke University School of Law. Her career began at the prestigious Washington, D.C. law firm Jones Day and 40 years later she returned to her alma mater where she serves as vice president and general counsel, directing an office of nine attorneys and four professional staff. 

In her remarks, Marianne reflected on a career that saw its share of twists and turns and she communicated to the students that 1) plans almost never work out and 2) life is messy. She encouraged the audience to be open to new opportunities along the way and reflected on the blessing of being surrounded by family and friends who offered support. 

“Beware in life the deadly clear path,” she quoted from a theology teacher during her Notre Dame school days. “You have just one life; make something of it.” Finally, she reminded students to “say thank you early and often.”

To read more about Marianne, visit our website.  

Reunion weekend, honoring the classes of 4 and 9, ended on Saturday when more than 300 alumnae gathered for Mass in the convent chapel, followed by a reception. The Class of 1974 was inducted into Golden Circle. 

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