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Spalding alumna Laura Dills named new Presentation president

Catholic Relief Services leader is also a Pres product

Steve Jones and Amanda Lucas

Presentation Academy announced Thursday that Catholic humanitarian relief leader and Spalding University alumna Laura Dills has been named the new president of the private all-girls’ high school.

Dills, a 1994 Pres graduate, who has worked the past 15 years with Catholic Relief Services, will start Aug. 1 as president at the campus at 861 S. Fourth St., right next to Spalding.

Dills comes to Presentation after a range of international experience with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which is the international humanitarian agency of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Dills graduated from Spalding in 1998 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and psychology. She also studied in France at the Université de Rennes II, was a member of the Peace Corps in the West African country of Benin and holds master’s degrees from American University and Regis University.

She comes from a family full of women with both Pres and Spalding degrees, including her mother and two of her three sisters.

“We have a long tradition on Fourth and Breckenridge with Pres and Spalding,” said Dills, who said she participated in Spalding’s study abroad program to Ireland. “I really enjoyed my time. I feel like Spalding opened a lot of doors to learn about international work.”

In addition to being the closest of geographic neighbors, Spalding and Pres share a long, strong history. Both were founded by Mother Catherine Spalding in the 19th century, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth inspire both schools’ missions. Dills said her Catholic education has guided her career.

“Every day I’ve been able to live out my faith in a very practical, very live, very actionable way,” she said. “At CRS, we work with the most marginalized and vulnerable people, and I’ve been working hard to secure resources so that people’s basic needs are met, and that’s what being a Catholic is all about. (Becoming Pres president) is just perfect alignment of my Catholic education and how I’ve been able to use that in the world.”

Dills began her career at CRS in 2003 as an International Development Fellow. She later held titles of Emergency Education Food Security Program Manager (Zimbabwe Emergency Response Team), Education and Food Security Program Manager (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Head of Programming (Rwanda), Assistant Country Representative for Program Quality (India), Deputy Country Representative for Programs (Haiti), Country Representative (Madagascar) and Deputy Regional Director for Program Quality (East Africa).

Most recently, Dills served as the Director of Programming of Agriculture/Livelihoods, Water, Environment and Sanitation and Microfinance at CRS’ headquarters in Baltimore.

“Laura’s passion for driving initiatives, acquiring resources and creating sustainable change made her the ideal person for the president role at Presentation,” said Stephen C. James, chairman of Pres’ board of trustees. “Her international experience with CRS reflects the breadth and depth of diversity that Presentation Academy is committed to fostering as it fulfills its mission of preparing young women as leaders in a global society thus perpetuating the objectives of our foundress, Mother Catherine Spalding.”

Dills gained some of her first professional experience while studying at Spalding. As a student, she said she worked as a night clerk at the Courier Journal and as a clerk at a law firm.

“I really loved (going to school) downtown, and I loved how many opportunities there were in the downtown area,” she said. “You’re just so centrally located. And I just had great professors, and the opportunities to study abroad really opened my eyes to how unique the world is and to take advantage of.”

For more info on Presentation, visit the school’s official website.