On a Tuesday night in the late 1950s, the staff of Loyola’s weekly newspaper, then called the Loyola News, could be found in Lewis Towers laying out the next day’s issue. Not much has changed since Mary Herely Marren became the first female editor-in-chief of the Loyola News, except for a move to the School of Communications basement.
Marren passed away Feb. 13 due to complications with the flu and pneumonia. She was 82.
Marren was born at Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston — the same hospital where her three daughters were born — but lived in Rogers Park for the majority of her life, where she eventually attended university.
The class of 1958 alumna served as editor-in-chief during her senior year and headed a staff of 15 students, which included former CBS correspondent Bill Plante.
Marren entered Loyola history by becoming the first female editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. Classmate and friend Gloria Johanns said there wasn’t much emphasis on that back then, perhaps because there were other women on staff.
“It wasn’t a big deal that she was a woman editor,” Johanns said. “It was a first, but at the time it was just that she was the one who was best suited. I don’t remember that anyone even noticed that it was a woman.”
Johanns remembers the small staff as a congenial group and one that produced a few marriages: Marren met her husband Joseph on staff.
“I remember that she was a calming influence, and some of us maybe lacked that,” Johanns said. “When everyone else was shrieking ‘How are we ever going to get this done?’ Mary just worked through it.”
Upon graduation, Marren was offered a job with Time Magazine, but turned it down because she was getting married to Loyola alumnus and former Loyola News colleague Joseph Marren, according Marren’s fourth child David Marren. Together they started a large family that remains close to this day.
Marren was also a strong advocate for education. In a phone conversation with The PHOENIX, David Marren joked he was the only child of nine not to receive a graduate degree. While her older children were attending university, Marren returned to work to support their education and worked at A&C Electric Company for 15 years.
Marren also served as an oblate, an individual who isn’t a monk or a nun but has affiliated his or herself with a monastic community, to the Order of St. Benedict at St. Scholastica Monastery, where she went to grammar and high school.
Marren was a strong woman in the newsroom and at home, according to the son. Diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma around the time of her pregnancy with her fourth child, Marren underwent surgery to remove it four months after giving birth. Nine months after the surgery, Marren gave birth to her first daughter, followed by four more children, according to David Marren, 54.
David said his mother was respected as well. He recounted how, one day while his sisters were at work at S&C Electric Company, their mother came down to visit them. As she walked by, the boys nearby fell silent, he said.
David said his mother’s defining traits were dignity and caring for others. He said she ensured her children received a quality education and impressed upon them values, such as honor and respect, and she did it all with love.
“She was always there for us,” David Marren said. “Life can hand you a lot of crushing defeats, and it seemed like every time that that would occur she was extending a hand. Even far into adulthood.”
Marren set the precedent for female editors-in-chief at Loyola’s paper, whose last (at least) four editors-in-chief have been female, and while Marren is remembered as the first, she is remembered by many more as a caring woman, mother, wife and grandmother. Marren is survived by her husband Joseph, nine children and 20 grandchildren.