Rosemary Dolan Arnett '46

rosemary dolan arnett
Rosemary Dolan Arnett (right) with her niece.

Alumna made many inroads in diverse career

by Liz Cezat, special writer

Women who graduated in the 1940s didn’t have a lot of career options—most were steered toward jobs as teachers or nurses. When Rosemary Dolan Arnett graduated from Mercy College of Detroit with a liberal arts degree in 1946, followed by a teaching degree, she became a trailblazer in government, education and public relations.

She was trained to be a leader by the Sisters of Mercy, whose education and mentoring encouraged Dolan Arnett to take on new challenges.

“I held the Sisters of Mercy in very high regard,” Dolan Arnett said. “They were a liberated group of nuns. Most had gone to universities and had an expansive view of everything. Many of them marched in the Civil Rights movement. They encouraged us to participate in many of those types of things and give something of ourselves to our community.

“I had some advantages by going to a small college,” she added. “I got to do more things at Mercy that taught me a lot about responsibility and leadership.”

Giving back was a value that her mother emphasized and one that has benefited both Mercy College and UDM.

“My brother (John Dolan) and I were brought up to contribute to those organizations that we had an interest in,” she said. John established a scholarship fund in memory of his late wife, Mary Ann Campbell Dolan ’46, a proud Mercy graduate. Since its inception in 1992, the endowed scholarship has provided financial support to 53 students in the College of Liberal Arts & Education. An avid supporter of UDM, Dolan Arnett contributes annually to the general fund.

At UDM’s annual donor recognition dinner, the Dolans are seated with the scholarship recipients. They are delighted to see how these students are doing in school and learn about their interests. Students who receive the scholarship can gain inspiration for their future through her multi-faceted career.

After teaching for several years in elementary education, Dolan Arnett was appointed by former Gov. G. Mennen Williams to serve as chairman of the Recorder’s Court Jury Commission in 1955. At that time, it was the largest criminal court in the country.

When her term ended in 1960, she began working on a master’s degree. Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh asked her to join the administrative staff of the federally funded program, “Total Action Against Poverty.” Later he appointed her to the Detroit Commission on Children and Youth as director of the Cultural and Enrichment Program for inner city schools.

Dolan Arnett was a force in promoting and advancing children’s education. She was public relations director of the Archdiocesan Opportunity Program, which oversaw a successful Head Start program.

As a longtime member of the Detroit Press Club, she had the opportunity to promote the projects in which she was involved. This led to greater awareness and support for landmark projects in many underserved communities.

In the early 1970s, the president of Mercy College of Detroit named her to the College Board of Trustees. Prior to that, she had served as president of the Mercy College Alumnae Association. That put her in contact with other private and public universities. There, she saw the importance of contributing to one’s alma mater.

In 1971, she was recruited to join the administrative staff of the newly elected Secretary of State Richard Austin. He was an advocate for women’s opportunities in state government. She retired from the state in 1988. 

Throughout her career, she worked with leaders in city, state and federal government. She partnered with community and business leaders to improve education and opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Later in her career, she married Judd Arnett, an acclaimed columnist for the Detroit Free Press who died in 1997. She resides in Bloomfield Hills.

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