Mary Creegan was born September 1, 1861 in Brighton, Iowa. Mary was educated at Nebraska University, Oberlin College, and the National Normal School. She received both a Bachelor’s of Science and of Art from the National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio where she taught for four years before marrying Ruric Nevel Roark on July 31, 1881.
Ruric Nevel Roark also a teacher became the first President of Eastern Kentucky Normal School in 1906. Mary was very involved in her husband’s work; they both had a strong interest in higher education. Mary’s involvement was also busy outside of the home and university; she was an active member of the Suffrage Movement for Equal Rights. She was elected Secretary in 1898 of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Mrs. Roark supported better teacher training and salaries, she also helped gain the right to vote in school elections.
When her husband was struck with brain cancer Mary assumed the duties of Acting President of Eastern Kentucky Normal School. Upon Mr. Roark’s death in 1909 she became Eastern’s first Female President until, Thomas Jackson Coates, was appointed by the Governor as the new President in 1910. After passing the torch as President, Mary became the Dean of Women and served in that role until 1915 leaving due to health concerns.
After leaving Eastern she attended the University of Wisconsin, obtaining her Masters writing a thesis titled, “A Study of the graduate work done my women in the universities belonging to the Association of American Universities”. Mary Creegan Roark believed in the right for everyone to equally obtain a higher education, and women to have the right to vote.
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