Mary McNerney ’81
“Say what?!”

That was my retort to a classmate who called me in April, relieved to hear my voice, because notice of my death had appeared in the spring edition of Bucknell Magazine.

“Let me assure you, (to paraphrase Mark Twain) rumors of my demise are premature!” I responded. We had a good laugh, and I called Bucknell to straighten out what was an error in record-keeping. The staff readily agreed to reinstate my existence. Whew!

It now occurs to me that this is the second time my existence at Bucknell has been in question. The first time it was much more difficult to get myself reinstated, not just at Bucknell but in life, period.

Mary McNerney ’81 with Zander
Photo: Gjergji Loci
Mary McNerney ’81 with Zander.

My senior year, I lived with three roommates in the Mods, on the other side of Route 15. This was before a pedestrian tunnel was built, and we had to cross the highway at the traffic light. Fall semester I was riding my bike through the intersection, when a driver ran a red light and hit me. I suffered multiple skull fractures, extensive eye injuries and a punctured lung.

My parents were told I might not survive the night, and when I did, that the trauma to my brain was so severe that “she will never be a student again.”

I was in a coma for several weeks, during which I was super-conscious — aware of all the energy, emotions and thoughts around me. What followed was an amazing series of healings — something deep within me wanted to live and come back fully. I attribute this to the power of my parents’ prayers (in my super-conscious state I was keenly aware of those prayers and the energetic force behind them).

After months in intensive care, I went home and continued healing. However, I was fixated on the crazy idea that I was going to return to Bucknell for my last semester and graduate with my class.

Reflecting nearly 40 years later, I think being back in the “Bucknell vibe” helped fulfill and fortify me. I was weak and easily tired, and due to my eye injuries, reading was difficult. But my wonderful Bucknell roommates helped when I needed it.

And even though I was missing credits due to my hospitalization, Bucknell administrators allowed me to graduate on time and make up those credits in the summer at a college near my home in Ohio.

After my near-fatal injury at the Route 15 intersection, a group of classmates advocated for the University to create a safer crossing zone for all students. That was when the pedestrian tunnel was built.

In subsequent years, I graduated from Georgetown Law (loved it), was a corporate lawyer at a large Boston law firm (hated it), had a fellowship at the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law in Vienna (fabulous!) and joined a small venture capital startup firm as vice president and counsel for its business in Prague (fun but frustrating).

My husband, Steve Mitchell, and I decided to raise horses instead of kids, and that’s what I enjoy doing now, riding my horse, Zander. Most recently, I’ve been writing a book, Earth Speaks Up, which will be available later this year through Sacred Stories Publishing.

As I said at the outset, rumors of my demise were premature! Thanks to Bucknell and my classmates for help along the way.