Mary Lee Sweat, age 74, passed away April 10 at University Hospital in New Orleans following a three-year battle with cancer complicated by multiple strokes. Services will be held at Rhodes Funeral Home in New Orleans on Thursday, April 22 with visitation at 9 a.m. and the service at 10 a.m.
Mary Lee was born Sept. 25, 1946 in Indianapolis where her father was doing a residency in surgery. In 1953 the family moved to Jackson. She was graduated from Murrah High School in 1964. She attended Southwestern at Memphis, now Rhodes College, and received a bachelor’s of arts in 1968. At Southwestern she was a member of Chi Omega sorority. She also received her master’s degree in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her master’s in business administration from Loyola University in New Orleans. In 1966 she was presented by the Debutante Club of Mississippi.
After graduation from North Carolina, she started her career as the junior high librarian at the International School of Brussels in Belgium. In 1971 she began her 40-year association with Loyola University in New Orleans as a serial librarian. She advanced through the system becoming library director in 1981 with her title changing to Dean of Libraries in 1992. Under her leadership and vision the school’s award-winning Monroe Library was built. Mary Lee said the highlight of her career was being able to participate in the building of the library. When she retired in 2010, colleagues described her as a great mentor who knew and appreciated everyone’s job and work in the library and “made the library a wonderful place.”
Professionally, among her memberships were the American Library Association where she served in several leadership roles, and chair of the College Libraries Section of the American Association of College and Research Libraries. Mary Lee was president of both the Louisiana Library Association and the Library Section of the Conference of Louisiana Colleges and Universities and was one of the founders of the Louisiana Chapter of ACRL. She served on the board of SOLINET and was active with the AJCU Library Deans and Directors. In her more than 40-year career in librarianship, she had an excellent reputation for strong, collaborative leadership that extended regionally and nationally.
After retirement Mary Lee found her bliss volunteering as a docent at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. She enjoyed all forms of art and cultures and, along with the Ogden, treasured visits to MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She loved sailing with her husband in the Pacific Northwest and on Lake Pontchartrain, the annual family vacation at Pickwick Lake, and frequent trips to New York City. She also enjoyed pilates at the Jewish Community Center and was an avid swimmer and runner.
Mary Lee was a selfless, compassionate person, sensitive to and aware of all around. Her inner strength was evident throughout her life and admiringly displayed during her courageous fight against cancer, never complaining. She was a soft-spoken person. She was beloved by her devoted husband, adoring family, and friends. Her footsteps were the mark of kindness. She will be deeply missed.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. and Mrs. W. Andrew Sweat of Jackson, her mother-in-law, Constance I. Gault of New York, and her father-in-law, Thomas J. Gault Jr. of Clinton, CT.
Survivors include her husband, Tom Gault of New Orleans; a sister, Meredith May and husband JD of Jackson; two brothers, Andy Sweat and wife Jimmye of Jackson, and John Sweat and wife Gail of Pickwick Lake; a sister-in-law, Andrea Gault and husband Randall S. Jones of Baltimore; nieces and nephews: Andrew and Mary Linley Sweat, Mary Elizabeth and Josh Evans, Ashley and Ben Koehler, Jennifer and Tyler Archie, Laura and Jesse Golland, Dent May, and Anna and JD Day; and several great nieces and nephews. Special thanks to her amazing oncologists, Dr. Joan Cheng, Dr. Scott Sonnier and their nurses and caring staffs at Touro Hospital and the exceptional nurses at Touro Infusion Center.
Memorials may be made to the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Center for Philanthropy, 919 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130, Ogden Museum of Southern Arts, 925 Camp St., New Orleans, La. 70130, or American Cancer Society.