Marcelle Leahy

Marcelle Leahy
Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

Marcelle Leahy, the daughter of French-Canadian parents who emigrated to Vermont from Quebec, is the warm, egalitarian, behind-the-scenes support and guide to the most senior member of the United States Senate, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy. For more than 55 years Marcelle Leahy has served as the senator’s most trusted confidante and the magnanimous presence by his side, as together they have advocated for justice, economic and educational opportunity, health care access and equality, and many other pressing concerns of our time. 

Throughout her career, Mrs. Leahy, a licensed registered nurse, has contributed her skills and insights to medical organizations in Vermont and Virginia. She served on the board of directors for the Vermont Visiting Nurse Association and the Vermont Nursing Initiatives Project and as a member of the advisory council of the Norwich University School of Nursing. For nearly twenty years she has served as a member of the UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences Board of Advisors.

Her perspectives as an advisor are formed not only by her medical expertise as a nurse but also by her experiences as a cancer patient and survivor of melanoma. UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences dean Patricia Prelock praises Mrs. Leahy’s ability to give direction and feedback on patient- and family-centered care. In Dean Prelock’s words, “She is a rational thinker who sees the issues, understands perspectives, formulates possible directions, and also has heart—trusting the leaders to make their best decisions, and checking in along the way.”

Mrs. Leahy has been instrumental in advocating for a program of simulation activities for UVM students across the health disciplines and the Vermont National Guard, to best prepare health providers and first responders for their initial hands-on work experiences in the field. She is also the honorary chair of the Vermont National Guard Family Readiness and Support Program, offering leadership and inspiration to a cadre of volunteers helping National Guard member families to maintain stability and continuity before, during, and following deployment.

Transforming personal experience into public effort, Mrs. Leahy is a strong supporter of cancer research and of adjunct services to children with cancer. She currently serves on the board of the Prevent Cancer Foundation and has been on the board of Tracy’s Kids—a nonprofit organization that provides art therapy to children with cancer and their siblings—since the organization’s inception in 1991.

Mrs. Leahy is respected for her ability to bring people together across political boundaries to work toward common goals. A longtime member of Senator Leahy’s staff described the depth to which the Leahys are considered a team. As the senior member of the Senate, Patrick Leahy is often asked to headline events—the operative question in fielding those requests is: “Is Marcelle able to do it with him? Because if she is, it means the event is going to be good.” With art therapy as a shared interest, Mrs. Leahy introduced Karen Pence, wife of vice president Mike Pence, at the organization’s annual fundraiser. They participated in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for a new Tracy’s Kids program that will be starting at Walter Reed military hospital, to serve children of military families.

In addition to her leadership with Tracy’s Kids, Mrs. Leahy is an active arts ambassador. She is a longtime board member of the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As a member of the board of Meridian International Center, she co-curated an exhibit with the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, with the intent to increase understanding between our countries through the visual arts.

For more than fifty years Marcelle Leahy has served Vermont and our nation as a frontline healthcare provider, an active board member and advocate in health services, a vocal cancer survivor and educator, an engaged supporter of the National Guard, and a widely respected partner to Vermont’s Democratic senator. Marcelle Leahy lives the values the University of Vermont holds high for dedicated public service.