President Paul Alivisatos named MaryFrances McCourt as the University’s new chief financial officer (CFO) in a letter to faculty on February 17. McCourt currently serves as treasurer and vice president for finance at the University of Pennsylvania. Her tenure at the University will begin on April 18.
As the University’s CFO, McCourt will be responsible for business, financial, and administrative strategies in support of academic, research, and patient care missions, according to the letter. She will also oversee the Financial Services, Human Resources, Information Technology Services, Risk Management, and Internal Audit offices.
McCourt will succeed the current interim CFO, Brett Padgett, who has served in the role since July 2021. Padgett will take part in McCourt’s leadership team as the associate vice president for finance.
In her current position at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), McCourt oversees financial reporting and multi-year financial planning, which includes Penn’s cash and short-term investments. She collaborates closely with financial management at Penn Medicine to optimize debt management and investing. She also manages all financial services provided to Penn students, including financial aid packages, student employment, financial counseling, student credit and loan operations, and all student billing and collections.
“The University of Chicago is quite similar to Penn in that there are only a handful of higher education institutions that I would say have top-tier academic reputations, large research revenue, and exposure to patient care,” McCourt said in an interview with The Maroon. “The interesting overlay with institutions like Chicago and Penn is the urban environment. I've done a lot of work here at Penn on racial justice, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and so I hope to bring that work [to UChicago].”
McCourt also looks forward to working alongside South Side community members and strengthening existing bonds with local partners. In January, the University announced the start of a multi-year fund to foster relationships with various community organizations to address the “root causes of violence” after several shootings in Hyde Park during the past year.
McCourt said her experience in Philadelphia has inspired her to support community initiatives.
“[There is] a lot of work to be done in and around our communities, whether it's ‘skill up’ initiatives, helping with the school system, or health care,” she said. “Overall, it's the fabric of what we do. [UChicago] is a big part of the community and we take that responsibility seriously.”
Before starting at Penn in 2016, McCourt served as the senior vice president and chief financial officer at Indiana University (IU), which during her tenure encompassed seven campuses, 115,000 students across Indiana, and more than 20,000 faculty and staff members. There, she led the university through the 2008 financial crisis and managed a budget of nearly $3.5 billion. McCourt also inaugurated the IU Office of Student Financial Literacy, which helped reduce student borrowing by 16 percent and student debt by $82.5 million over the course of three years.
Through her role as CFO at UChicago, she hopes to work on and expand existing financial wellness programs.
Speaking about the financial literacy initiative, McCourt said, “It does bring a complete package for anyone but especially for students. It's not all about money. There’s some great learning to be had, and it's stuff we don't usually teach.”
Before entering higher education administration, McCourt worked in management for Agilysys Inc., a developer and marketer of software and other products for the hospitality industry, where she conducted corporate finance, strategic planning, and capital management. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and an M.B.A. from Case Western Reserve University.
When she arrives on campus in the spring, McCourt most looks forward to meeting members of the University community in person. She hopes to replicate the meaningful relationships she made at universities such as IU and Penn.
“One thing that really drew me to the University of Chicago [was] the deep love that people have for the University, whether it's the senior leadership or the trustees or the alumni, and so I look forward to being part of that team and really partnering with President Alivisatos and his team to really deliver on his vision and bring the University to even higher levels of achievement,” McCourt said. “Everything I will do will be through that lens, and that lens…includes the community and includes all constituents.”