Story by Shannon Monahan ’22

June 1 was the first day on the job for Michele Romero Ernst ‘81, the new president of Marian. Ernst follows Mary Higgins ’69 who retired after eight years at the helm.

Ernst graduated from Marian in 1981 and said she is very excited to be back in the community. When she was a student here, she participated in soccer, basketball and cheerleading and was a member of the National Honor Society. Ernst says that her favorite part of Marian is that “it is cool to be smart, and girls find more confidence in themselves.” The inner fan-girl in her was brought out over the idea of being able to experience Field Day once again. 

After high school, Ernst went to Benedictine College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha to study English. Her first job was at First Data (now Fiserv), where she has spent most of her career in several client-facing, development and executive roles. She said she feels that her past jobs and experiences, and her nine years as a Marian mom to Erin ’06, Molly ’08 and Katy ’11 (Feichtinger) have prepared her to fill the shoes of Mary Higgins.  

The search for Marian’s president was national in scope and included input from the Marian community, according to Beth McCarthy Engel ‘93, chair of Marian’s Board of Directors and chair of the selection committee. 

Marian called Ernst, as she was recommended for the job, and asked her to consider applying for the new position.“It was the perfect opportunity for me to start something new, and if they would have called a month earlier or later, I do not know what my answer would have been,” Ernst said. What drew Ernst to the job was the idea of giving back to the community. 

Ernst wants to learn everything she can in order to excel at her new position. Being familiar with building good relationships with the community will help her thrive in this new job and really learn the values of Marian and the value the school brings to the community.  

Ernst is a relationship builder with strong communication skills and extensive experience in all aspects of organizational leadership. “Michele is an enthusiastic leader who will propel Marian’s mission and is uniquely able to develop donor relationships, to envision and implement new enrollment strategies, to collaborate with administrators, faculty and staff, and to inspire students,” said Engel.

Ernst is proud and honored to have this opportunity and is excited to begin. Although Higgins can never be replaced, Ernst is an ideal woman to continue her legacy with hard work, dedication and passion to keep Marian the place where girls can grow into the best versions of themselves. 

Students, faculty and staff are excited to welcome her back home and see all she will accomplish in the future.