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AAUW to Honor Mary Lai, Long Island University Officer, in Rockland County Ceremony


Peter Reiner,Director of Marketing
Hudson Graduate Center at Rockland,
Long Island University

Orangeburg, N.Y. – Mary Lai, the emeritus finance officer of Long Island University whose 64-year career has included the launch of the university's Rockland Graduate Campus, will be honored by the American Association of University Women March 20 in the Cultural Arts Center of Rockland Community College in Suffern, N.Y.

Believed to be the longest-tenured university finance officer in the country, Mrs. Lai will be feted along with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, renowned physician and humanitarian Dr. Martha MacGuffie and Dominican College Chancellor Sister Kathleen Sullivan. In all, 24 women will be honored at the AAUW's “Women Who Made a Difference” ceremony.

Mrs. Lai is being honored by the AAUW for her expert management of resources that permitted Long Island University to expand its graduate and professional education in Rockland County. She was instrumental in the opening of the Rockland Graduate Campus in 1980 in Orangeburg.

For more than six decades, Mrs. Lai has been a major factor in the success of Long Island University. As a scholarship student at Long Island University, she graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in accounting and economics from the university's flagship Brooklyn campus in 1942. She was hired by the university in April 1946 as chief financial officer, a position she held until 2003. Today, she holds the position of treasurer emeritus.

“I love what I do. I love it with a passion,” Mrs. Lai said. “There's nothing better than helping students to earn an education and seeing the difference it makes in their lives.”

Mrs. Lai has made more than 50 accreditation visits to other college campuses as a member of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1978, Mrs. Lai received the Distinguished Alumna Award from the Brooklyn Campus. She also received the Trustee Award in 1981 and an honorary doctorate from the University in 1986, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Fordham University, where she earned her master's degree.

Mrs. Lai is a member of the board of trustees of St. Joseph's College and has been a member of the boards of LeMoyne College and Boston College. She has also served on the boards of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the Eastern Association of College and University Business Officers, the Educational & Institutional Cooperative Service, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, East New York Savings Bank, M & T Bank, Empire State Bank and the advisory board of Chemical Bank.

In 1999, she was named Accounting Executive of the Year by the Institute of Management Accountants. In 1996, Mrs. Lai's 50th anniversary, she was honored at the University's McGrath Dinner, and the structure that houses the University's financial operation was named the Mary M. Lai Finance Building. In addition to the honors bestowed upon her by the University, she received the NACUBO Distinguished Business Officer Award in 1987, the Peat Marwick/EACUBO Distinguished Service Award in 1989 and the Soroptimist Woman of Distinction Award in 1991.

Her late husband, William T. “Buck” Lai, held numerous positions at the university, including athletic director of the C.W. Post Campus and provost of the Brooklyn Campus.

Mrs. Lai has been a generous donor to Long Island University. She has funded decorative fountains at the C.W. and Brooklyn campuses.

For further information about the ceremony, please call (845) 735-1567 or e-mail

Posted 03/04/2010

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