Geraldine McGuire Heffernan

Maureen Liberto remembers pursuing a demanding doctoral program while juggling a family and a career. When she thought of dropping the program, her mom gave the encouragement Liberto needed.
“I remember specifically thinking that I couldn’t finish a doctorate with teenagers and everything else,” says Liberto of Oxford. “My mom said, ‘Maureen, you will be at that age and place in your life no matter what you’re doing. Devote some time to education.’”
Liberto received her doctorate, enjoyed a career in higher education and is honoring her mother through the Geraldine McGuire Heffernan Council Scholarship Endowment at the University of Mississippi. Her gift of $100,000 establishes the scholarship under the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
Heffernan, who passed away earlier this year at 96, was “always an educator,” Liberto says. The resident of Montreal, Canada, was an elementary school teacher, and Liberto’s father, Fintan Patrick Heffernan, was a teacher and school administrator. Both were active in their community.
“Maureen Liberto is an amazing educator and leader who obviously is following in her parents’ footsteps,” says Dr. Gloria Kellum, vice chancellor for university relations. We are profoundly grateful for her devotion.”
Liberto says her mother knew about plans for the scholarship. “My mother was a woman of substance. If she were alive, she would tell scholarship recipients that
self-confidence comes from education. And, she would tell them that people can
do anything they dream if they put their minds to work.”
The Women’s Council Scholarship marks the second major contribution from Liberto, who with Laurel, Miss., businessman Julius W. King, gave a combined $200,000 gift to the university, establishing the Liberto/King Professorship in the School of Business Administration’s area of insurance and risk management. The professorship honors the longtime friendship between King and V.A. Liberto, a
businessman and Maureen Liberto’s husband.
After retiring in 2005 as assistant director of admissions and guidance at Jones County Junior College in Laurel, Liberto moved to Oxford, where she volunteers as a counselor for university students. She works with around 50 students in the Ole Miss First program.
“There’s just a passion in me for students,” she says. “Interacting with the students at Ole Miss makes me feel that there’s hope for America. They are just so
outstanding. This is where I want to be: sharing knowledge and experience to help guide young people’s lives. I look forward to coming to campus every day.”
The Liberto family has enjoyed a long relationship with Ole Miss. Maureen Liberto’s late husband was an alumnus who gave of his time by serving on the advisory committee to the School of Business Administration, as well as on campaigns to raise private funds. The couple’s three children also attended the university.