Chicago businesswoman resigns from Notre Dame board
A Chicago business executive resigned Wednesday from the University of Notre Dame’s board of trustees after a conservative Roman Catholic watchdog group reported that she donated thousands of dollars to an organization that says it is “dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women.”
Roxanne Martino, a 1977 Notre Dame graduate and president and chief executive officer of Aurora Investment Management, a Chicago firm with more than $8 billion in investments, said she stepped down less than two months after her appointment in “the best interest of the university.”
“I dearly love my alma mater and remain fully committed to all aspects of Catholic teaching and to the mission of Notre Dame,” Martino said in a statement released by the university. “I had looked forward to contributing in this new role, but the current controversy just doesn’t allow me to be effective.”
The controversy erupted last month when the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that monitors the Catholic identity of the nation’s Catholic colleges and universities, reported that Martino had given more than $25,000 to Emily’s List, a campaign committed to electing women who support abortion rights.
The Cardinal Newman Society also took issue with donations to the Chicago Foundation for Women, an organization that addresses domestic violence and economic equality, but has ties to Planned Parenthood.
Richard C. Notebaert, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, said Martino didn’t realize any of the organizations she supported also promoted abortion rights. The Rev. John Jenkins, university president, reportedly said the same to concerned alumni. Martino could not be reached to confirm whether she knew of the organization’s missions.
“On the basis of a recommendation from others, she made contributions to two organizations, and she regrets that she did not personally review their activities,” Notebaert said. “That she erred in not knowing completely about two of the many organizations to which she makes contributions does not in any way diminish the exemplary way in which she has lived her life and faith.”
Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, faulted Martino and university administrators for being in the dark about the background of a trustee who could have a say in decisions with significant impact on the university.
“What institution would bring on a trustee without vetting their background?” he said. “This information was so easily obtainable. It’s hard to imagine it was not known already. Emily’s List in particular … There was no question of what might have been her motivations for donating to the organization.”
Dennis Brown, a spokesman for Notre Dame, declined to say whether administrators screen the political contributions of board candidates. He said the selection process would not change going forward.
“We will continue to look for people who fit with the culture of Notre Dame, who are committed to support of the university’s mission and who believe in and uphold church teaching,” he said.
Reilly said the watchdog organization has kept a close eye on Notre Dame since the university’s decision to invite President Barack Obama to give the 2009 commencement address and receive an honorary degree. The invitation sparked protests and boycotts because of Obama’s support of abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said the controversy that led to Martino’s resignation shows “the lunacy of the extreme uber-conservative Catholics who represent really a minority opinion within the church.”
This article was originally published by the Chicago Tribune.