Senior Engagement Officer
EDUCATIONAL POLICY AND LEADERSHIP ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Hosanna Farr Mahaley, Arts '91
Hosanna — a builder at heart — focused on urban education and building community for 30 years before she was called upon to uphold her family’s legacy in the construction industry.
Hosanna is currently president and CEO of Legacy RED Group Inc., a full-service general construction company centered on building affordable housing. As an educator, Hosanna realized that ensuring children’s basic needs are met — like food, shelter and safety — plays an important role in urban education.
“Sometimes when performance is not at the level expected, the problem is not the strategy or even execution but instead the environment,” says Hosanna. “I experience pure joy watching families celebrate their children’s accomplishments or parents showing children their new home or new bedroom.”
In high school, Hosanna was first placed on a vocational track rather than in college prep classes. Her life changed when a counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) visited her home and strongly encouraged her to attend Marquette. “The Marquette EOP team’s belief in me was unshakeable, and I knew it. Anything less than excellence was simply not an option,” she says.
Most notably, Hosanna served as the first African American state superintendent of education for the District of Columbia. In addition to many other roles, she served as chief of staff to Arne Duncan during his tenure as chief executive of Chicago Public Schools. She later went on to become U.S. Education Secretary.
Favorite Marquette memory:
“My favorite Marquette memory is the sense of family that existed within the Educational Opportunity Program and my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Not only did I enjoy the sense of family that already existed, I created a family at Marquette. I met my best friend at Marquette. He and I still work together. I’m still close to my sorority sisters, and I named my first child after Marquette.”