Speakers and Honorees

Mary Catherine Bunting, MS ’72, CRNP

Honorary Doctor of Public Service

Retired nurse practitioner, philanthropist
Honorary Doctor of Public Service

Mary-Catherine-BuntingGiving has taken many forms for Mary Catherine Bunting over the years.

As a nurse practitioner, she’s helped patients feel better, particularly the underserved. As a volunteer, she’s stopped by a local homeless shelter with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, offerings from her garden, or sat with a hospice patient. As a nun and educator, she’s spread belief in the life-changing power of education and faith. As a benefactor, she’s donated huge dollars to support causes that align with her personal values.

Today, Bunting looks back on her life and feels fortunate.

“I was blessed to be able to do what I loved all my life, helping others through my profession as well as my volunteer work,” she says. “Mercy Medical Center’s mission and philosophy also supported mine.”

Mercy is a good place to start recapping the Bunting story. After a serious car accident at age 16 that required a 10-day hospital stay, she gained appreciation for nursing as a career and earned her nursing degree in 1958 at the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. After a short stint as a labor and delivery nurse, she joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1959, staying in the order until 1974.

From 1972 to 1996, she practiced at Mercy Southern Health Center, an outreach center in South Baltimore, and became a nurse practitioner. She retired after a 34-year career at Mercy.

Not that this completes her Mercy story. In October 2007, Bunting made a major gift as part of Mercy Medical Center’s $400 million capital campaign. The Mary Catherine Bunting Center is a 20-story tower that includes 259 private patient rooms and 15 state-of-the-art operating rooms.  

"Being Catholic, I thought, what are you supposed to do with your blessings?" Bunting once told The Sun. "Share them."

She had a lot to share as granddaughter of George Avery Bunting, a pharmacist who invented Noxzema, which grew into CoverGirl Cosmetics and Noxell Corp.

He and eight other “pharmapreneur” alumni were honored by the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy at its 175th anniversary on May 10.

“I knew my grandfather from the stories that he and my grandmother would share with us, and the more that I learned about him, the more amazed I became,” said Bunting, who accepted the award on her grandfather’s behalf. “While I don’t know what inspired my grandfather to pursue a career in pharmacy, I do know that he had a lot of business savvy and ‘get up and go,’ which helped him climb from his humble beginnings to become the head of an international corporation. I’m proud to be here to honor him tonight.” 

She also remains a presence at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), where she graduated with a master’s degree in nursing in 1972. Her $1 million pledge in 2009 endowed the Mary Catherine Bunting Clinical Nurse Leader Scholarship to provide scholarship support for Maryland residents enrolled in UMSON’s Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) master’s option, which allows people with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline to obtain a master’s degree in nursing in 16 to 23 months. Nearly 40 percent of incoming CNL students are from under-represented or disadvantaged groups.

Another $750,000 gift from Bunting allowed UMSON, in collaboration with the Maryland Family Network, to develop a three-year community public health initiative to support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5 through Early Head Start (EHS) and Head Start (HS) Centers in Baltimore City. Education is a priority to Bunting, who did not know she had dyslexia until after receiving her master’s degree. 

Having put her inheritance on hold for the 15 years she was a nun, Bunting said her upbringing made it an easy choice.

“I was blessed to come from a family that did not focus on wealth,” Bunting says. “And I knew that love — not wealth — is what brings joy and happiness.”

It is time, not money, that Bunting appreciates most these days.

“Now that I am 81 and retired, I have more time to work with others on issues that affect people’s lives,” she says. “Racial justice, peace and conflict resolution, sexism, poverty, inclusionary housing, the homeless, caring for the environment, health care for all, and the politics that effect these vital issues.”

Standing up for the oppressed, taking women from a homeless shelter to a movie, sitting at the bedsides of the dying as a volunteer for the Hospice of Baltimore, Bunting says service doesn’t come with a price tag.

As she once told The Sun, the women she meets at My Sister's Place Lodge "always say to me other people give us money, but you give us time," Bunting says.

She doesn't see how she could do otherwise.

The Bible "doesn't say,`Blessed are the people who give to the poor,'” she says. "It says,`Blessed are the poor.'”

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