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Joining the Rosary College Board as a student trustee in the 1970s was a hint of things to come for Patricia O’Neill Baker. More than 30 years later, Baker ’78, MBA ’90 would see her life at Dominican come full circle when she rejoined the board, this time as a corporate member. 

Earlier this year, she retired from the board after nine years of service. The groundwork for this service, and her 40-year career in banking, was laid by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, Baker, a first-generation college student, says.

“The Sisters took an interest in me to a very large extent and exposed me to lots of things I might not have been exposed to,” she said. “Social justice was a big part of that, as well as the importance of relationships, being an advocate for people, staying connected and developing my leadership skills. They had confidence in my abilities—and that was enough of an impetus to push me out of my comfort zone and get involved in activities, clubs and organizations.” 

An internship at Continental Bank in downtown Chicago, obtained through Rosary College’s relatively new business school, led to an offer for a full-time position after graduation. From there, she moved up through the ranks of the banking industry, retiring in 2018 as executive director with JPMorgan Chase. 

Leading Dominican University through the pandemic and selecting a new president were among the most important tasks undertaken by the board during her three terms, Baker said, but her work as chair of the Student Success and Engagement Committee was especially meaningful. 

“The committee is the heart and soul of everything that matters to the students,” she said.