Matriarch of faith, family and football

Mrs.+Ann+Mara+at+Convent+of+the+Sacred+Heart%27s+Mass+of+the+Holy+Spirit+in+September+2013+at+which+she+was+celebrated+as+an+honorary+alumna.%0ACourtesy+of+Mrs.+Meghan+Mara+Ryan+%2701

Mrs. Ann Mara at Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013 at which she was celebrated as an honorary alumna. Courtesy of Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan ’01

Mrs. Ann Mara at Convent of the Sacred Heart's Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013 at which she was celebrated as an honorary alumna.  Courtesy of Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan '01
Mrs. Ann Mara at Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013 at which she was honored as an honorary alumna.
Courtesy of Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan ’01

Faith, family, and football. For Convent of the Sacred Heart longtime benefactor, mother of 11 and New York Giants matriarch, Mrs. Ann Mara, these three words capture the three passions to which she was extraordinarily dedicated.
Although Mrs. Mara passed away February 1 at the age of 85, her legacy lives on in the religious, academic and athletic communities of which she was a vital part. Her fiery personality and unwavering determination inspired everyone she met.
Mrs. Mara was born in Manhattan June 18, 1929 to Irish Catholic parents Mr. and Mrs. George Mumm. Her family fostered her dedication to Roman Catholicism. Mrs. Mara’s faith never wavered even though at age three she lost her mother and was raised primarily by her aunt. As a young woman, she worked for the Jesuit Seminary and Mission Bureau adjacent to the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola on Park Avenue where she regularly attended mass.
“She went to mass everyday and observed the sacraments very closely,” Mrs. Mara’s eldest daughter, Mrs. Susan Mara McDonnell Sacred Heart Greenwich Class of 1973, said. “She really expected all of her children and grandchildren to do the same.” 
Fittingly, Mrs. Mara met her husband, Mr. Wellington Mara, at a 7:30 am mass at the St. Ignatius Church in 1952. The two married in 1954 and inherited the New York Giants from Mr. Mara’s father, Mr. Tim Mara, who founded the organization in 1925.
Mrs. Ann Mara, in blue, with Bishop Caggiano, six of her seven daughters, and two granddaughters Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan '01 and Mrs. Annie Mara Whitman '01 at Convent of the Sacred Heart's Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013.  Courtesy of Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan '01
From left to right Mrs. Ann Mara Cacase ’85, Mrs. Kathy Mara Morehouse ’80, Ms. Sheila Mara ’79, Mrs. Susan Mara McDonnell ’73, Mrs. Ann Mara, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Mrs. Mara’s granddaughters Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan ’01 and Mrs. Annie Mara Whitman ’01, Mrs. Nancy Mara, Mrs. Colleen Mara McLane ’89 and Mrs. Meghan Mara Brennan ’89 at Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013.
Courtesy of Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan ’01

The Maras’ seven girls, Susan ’73, Sheila ’79, Kathy ’80, Maureen ’82, Ann ’85, Meghan ’89 and Colleen ’89, all graduated from Sacred Heart Greenwich. Of their 43 grandchildren, 6 attended Sacred Heart. Currently, two of Mrs. Mara’s 16 great-grandchildren, Lily Brown ’19 and Maddie McLane ’17,  and two great-great grandchildren, Lillie and Claire Ryan ’29 are attending. Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan ’01 is Sacred Heart’s Alumnae Director. 
Despite the Mara family’s deep Sacred Heart lineage, Mrs. Mara was unaware of the Sacred Heart network until the spring of 1969. One of her good friends, Mrs. Jean Williams, whose daughters attended the school, introduced her to Sacred Heart. 
Mrs. Mara McDonnell remembers the first time that she, her mother, and her father visited Sacred Heart Greenwich for a folk-style mass. Mr. Mara disliked this nontraditional mass and was therefore opposed to the school. Nevertheless, Mrs. Mara insisted her daughters attend and, over half a century later, Mr. Mara and multiple generations of the Mara family became some of the school’s most avid fans.
Mrs. Mara advocated not only for her daughters’ strong faith and academic excellence, but also for their active participation in athletics. Ms. Meghan Mara Brennan ’89 played on Sacred Heart’s field hockey and lacrosse teams and coached them after graduation. Mr. and Mrs. Mara were often on the sidelines cheering at Sacred Heart at athletic events.
“I think my mother believed that an all girls school education that was based in faith was the best kind of education, ” Mrs. Mara McDonnell said. “She wanted her daughters to excel and she felt that Sacred Heart provided the best education.”
Mrs. Anna Mara, center, with six of her seven daughters at Convent of the Sacred Heart's Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013.  Courts of Mrs. Meghan Mara '01
From left to right Mrs. Meghan Mara Brennan ’89, Mrs. Colleen Mara McLane ’89, Mrs. Susan Mara McDonnell ’73, Mrs. Anna Mara, Ms. Sheila Mara, Mrs. Kathy Mara Morehouse ’80, Mrs. Ann Mara Cacase ’85 at Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013.
Courtesy of Mrs. Meghan Mara Ryan ’01

Even after her daughters graduated, Mrs. Mara remained an active member of the Sacred Heart community. She frequently attended Christmas masses, alumnae reunions and school fundraisers. Mr. and Mrs. Mara were longtime benefactors of Sacred Heart Greenwich. She became an honorary alumna at Sacred Heart’s Mass of the Holy Spirit in September 2013. In April 2012, Mrs. Mara received an honorary degree from Fordham University, Mr. Mara’s alma mater.
Mrs. Mara was dually committed to the New York Giants community. Ever since 1954, she rarely missed a game and developed close friendships with managers and players. Affectionately called the “First Lady of Football,” she was known for her energetic, witty and competitive spirit, and standing by her team after every win and loss.
She formally co-owned the Giants with Mr. Mara for many years, developing the team and widening its fan base. Although Mr. Mara’s father bought the team for $500 in 1925, the team’s value has grown to $2.1 billion according to forbes.comThe Giants are currently the fourth-highest valued team in the National Football League.
Mr. and Mrs. Mara were married for 51 years until Mr. Mara’s death in 2005 of lymphoma.
“They had a marriage that was such a great example to all of her children. We were blessed to have both my mother and father as parents and role models,” Mrs. Mara McDonnell said. “I didn’t realize how strong she was until my father died. She really carried on without him and kept the family together and followed in his footsteps.”
The Giants won their first Super Bowl Championship in 1986. The team went on to win again in 1990 and twice since Mr. Mara’s death in 2007 and 2011.
She won the National Football League Paul J. Tagliabue Award of Excellence just before Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 at MetLife Stadium. The award is given to a league or team executive who “demonstrates the integrity and leadership Tagliabue exhibited in career development opportunities for minority candidates and advocacy for diversity on the league and club level when he was NFL commissioner,” according to giants.com.
Beyond Sacred Heart’s campus and MetLife Stadium, Mrs. Mara was a generous philanthropist. She donated to many educational nonprofit organizations including Boys Hope Girls Hope and Inner City Scholarship Fund, which help underprivileged children graduate from high school and college as well as Life Athletes and numerous Catholic charities.
Mrs. Mara was also passionate about ameliorating the plight of children diagnosed with cancer. She was involved with St. Vincent’s Hospital Westchester and the Ronald McDonald House of New York. Despite the many causes she supported, she never missed a fundraising dinner.
Mrs. Mara’s life epitomizes the goals and values concentric to a Sacred Heart education. She devoted herself to Roman Catholicism, addressed social problems, and fortified her athletic and educational communities.
“She loved being a mother, was passionate about the Giants and Sacred Heart and was a great friend,” Mrs. Mara McDonnell said. “She was a tower of strength and integrity and a woman who loved her faith, family and football team.”
-Grace Isford, Editor-in-Chief