Theresa L. Mao

Theresa MaoTheresa L. Mao, PhD, (BA 1958) enjoys helping others and serving those in need. She practices generosity and is especially passionate about supporting institutions of higher education.

“If you take advantage of opportunity and go to school you should at least give something back,” said Dr. Mao, who earned a bachelor’s in chemistry. “People who don’t give back are not doing the right thing.”

The degree Dr. Mao earned from Our Lady of the Lake College paved the way for doctoral studies at Fordham University. She later became the first female PhD chemist at Esso Research, now the Exxon Mobil Corporation.

A consistent and generous supporter of OLLU, Dr. Mao recently gave a generous planned gift to support the chemistry department.

As a teen living in Taiwan more than 65 years ago, a Catholic priest in Taipei gave her a scholarship to attend OLLU.

“I went to two Catholic schools in the United States and my (late) husband went to three,” Dr. Mao said. “So, we donated to all the schools as a way of thanking them.”

In Arizona, Dr. Mao served on the board of the Maricopa County Medical Auxiliary for 16 years. As president from 1978-79, Dr. Mao grew membership in the Auxiliary to more than 1,200 to become the largest such organization of its kind in the entire country.

After losing her husband to tragedy in 1983, Dr. Mao built a successful real estate business. With three business partners, she expanded operations to citrus farms, vineyards, and a fruit packing house. She served on the Board of Arizona Catholic Charities for 12 years.

While immersing herself in service and business in Arizona, Dr. Mao continued to support OLLU with donations. In 2008, the university named her a Distinguished Alumna for "Service to the Alma Mater."

Dr. Mao is now retired and lives in Florida, next to her older daughter, an ophthalmologist. Her younger daughter is a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Massachusetts.

A passionate donor, Dr. Mao believes everyone has the capacity to give a planned gift, however small, to their alma mater.

“You have to be civic-minded,” she said. “You can say, ‘I want to give this certain amount.’ It can be one percent of what you have or something larger. I made up my mind to do that a long time ago. It’s in my will.”