Marymount College touts quiet successes

Over the past three years, Marymount College President Michael Brophy, PhD, has led the school on a dramatic turnaround. Photo by David Rosenfeld

On a peaceful hillside in Rancho Palos Verdes overlooking San Pedro and the Pacific Ocean, Marymount College is quietly enjoying some tremendous success lately.

Within the past three years this small liberal arts college now with enrollment topping 1,000 students opened a satellite campus in San Pedro for four-year degree programs, joined a collegiate sports conference, doubled enrollment, opened two residence halls and last month broke ground on a new athletic field and parking lot.

College president Michael Brophy, PhD, credits the school’s recent success to creating the four-year degree programs mainly in business and liberal arts. Brophy, who has led the college going on seven years, said the school previously had not been thriving.

“We grew quickly because the kids who were here for two-year degrees wanted to stay,” Brophy said. “Because of our growth we’ve been able to make significant investments. We have a winning story now.”

Over the past three years the college has invested roughly $7 million on two residence halls and the new campus in San Pedro. The new field and parking lot, along with replacing utility and sewer lines at the RPV campus occurring this summer cost about $5 million.

The groundbreaking last month caps a nearly 20-year vision for the school that began in 1994 and about a 10-year effort to win city approval. Frustrated with the slow pace of RPV city government, the school took its development plans to the voters in a ballot initiative in 2010. The initiative failed but the city ended up granting most of what the school requested, except for a residence hall.

Brian Campbell, mayor pro tem of RPV, attended the school’s groundbreaking celebration as a way to help mend relations and put the past relations between the city and the school behind them.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to reach out and talk about the future as opposed to some of the wrestling that went on in the past,” said Campbell, who along with his council colleagues at the time were united in opposition to the ballot initiative.

“I have always been a supporter of Marymount, but I was against this ballot initiative,” Campbell said. “There was just a concern that if they were successful that the surrounding neighborhoods would be limited in their ability to preserve their own rights to peace and quiet.”

Along with the conditional use permit came roughly 180 mitigations that govern everything form the height of light stanchions in the parking lot to operational hours.

“The college in the end was happy to get its entitlements,” Brophy said. “We complied with all the conditions and we all moved on.”

When the RPV campus reached its 940-student limit before the beginning of last year, rather than turn students away school administrators hired more teachers and spent more than $3 million on a new campus in San Pedro. In about five years, the RPV campus expects to accommodate up to 1,200 students.

“I think we’re all proud of what’s transpired,” Brophy said. “It’s a good business lesson that if your customer is asking you to do things for so long, you do it.”

Student body president Marcos Topolos is among the first students this year from Marymount with a four-year degree in business. He said the response from students has been really positive.

“During the two-year program I always heard from people who said they wished they had the opportunity to stay here and continue getting taught with the same methods,” Topolos said. “We aren’t treated as a number. Marymount really takes a personal approach.”

Annual tuition at Marymount is $27,000 but 75 percent of the student body receives financial assistance either through loans or grants.

Students at Marymount expect significant character development, Brophy said. Toward that end, three years ago the school began a program for all freshmen to volunteer each week at the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club.

“There’s an expectation that the good things will be enhanced as they grow and become more confident,” Brophy said. “Therefore service is very important to us, the belief that when we serve others we learn something about ourselves.”


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