“Mary Lou’s commitment to Girls Inc. has been not only a role model to the girls we serve but also to the staff and the board of directors,’ said fellow board member and good friend Germain Vigeant-Trudel. We will miss everything about our friend and mentor and will continue to strive for excellence in programming in Mary Lou’s honor.
These are just a few of the words that the Girls Inc. staff used to describe our board member and dear friend, Mary Lou Keenan, when we learned of her death. Mary Lou was a dedicated volunteer who enjoyed spending time with our members. Her presence was felt throughout our building because she always had a smile and a kind, supportive word for everyone she met. Every event was generously sponsored and attended by her and her husband, Jim Keenan. Sharing a laugh with Mary Lou was priceless, as were discussions about Girls Inc. programming and how our girls and young women were doing. She genuinely cared, and it was obvious.
Hard working and humble in nature, Mary Lou was recognized for her contributions to the community by Girl’s Inc. as the Honoree for the Celebration of Today’s Woman in 2011, as the Board Person of the Year in 2018 by the Non Profit Alliance of Great Lowell and also as Board Member of the Year by the Association of Catholic Admissions and Advancement Professionals.
Active in her community, Mary Lou served as a Board member and Past President of the Board for Girl’s Inc. of Greater Lowell and Past Chairperson and member of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro as well as the former Alumnae Board Treasurer. In addition, she was a past Secretary and longtime Board member of the Merrimack Repertory Theatre and a Board Member of the Whistler House Museum of Art both in Lowell.
Shelby Phillips was the first person to ask a question at the World Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD) conference. Before you shrug your shoulders and think no big deal—this former painfully shy teenager was attending a conference in Glasgow, Scotland, with hundreds of people in attendance. Shelby was one of 21 students selected to attend IASSIDD. The College of Natural Sciences awarded Shelby the Flanagan Fund Scholarship for this trip and the Office of Financial Aid Services at The University of Massachusetts Amherst provided her with a scholarship to cover the remaining cost. As if that’s not impressive enough, during a 12-hour layover in London, Shelby left London Gatwick Airport and explored the city on her own. “My mom has never taken a vacation from work and I’ve barely travelled New England. I never thought I would get the opportunity to go abroad. When I heard about the opportunity to attend the IASSIDD conference I knew that I had to take a chance and apply because it fit so well with my studies at UMass. I kept hearing my Girls Inc. voice telling me to go for it!”
A model Girls Inc. woman ahead of her time, Mary Lou graduated from the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro and went on to receive her AB in Mathematics from Trinity Washington University and then her Master’s in Education from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mary Lou began her career as a computer programmer for the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C. with the Remington Rand Univac Corporation. She shifted her talents to education where she had a long and distinguished career as a teacher at the Nativity School in St. Paul, MN and later at Tewksbury Junior High School in Tewksbury, MA.