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Cathy O'Rourke ‘90, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Smith+Nephew

Cathy O'Rourke ‘90, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Smith+Nephew

Cathy O'Rourke ‘90 is the Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Smith+Nephew. Smith+Nephew is a global medical device and technology company. The company's mission is to design technology that takes the limits off living, through their Advanced Wound Management, Sports medicine, and Orthopaedics and Trauma work. After graduating from Stuart, Cathy studied at Princeton, and then worked at a Catholic grade school in Harlem for two years. Cathy says that it was this experience that “convinced [her] that [she] wanted to be an advocate for people” so she went to Harvard law School. Cathy then went on to get her masters degree in Australia. From here, she clerked for a federal judge in New York and joined a law firm to develop her legal skills. After 10 years, she ended up at Smith+Nephew once deciding she wanted to work for a company whose products help people. 

What made you choose to attend Stuart?

I think the combination of the academics, service and opportunities to develop as a leader. 

How did being at Stuart help prepare and guide you for the path you chose after graduating?  

Stuart provided an atmosphere where I could build confidence in my ability to make a contribution to the world.

What advice might you give to current students?

Enjoy your time, have courage and be kind to your fellow students.  If you are, they will be with you and in your corner for life.  Also, make sure you have fun!

How has attending an all girls school impacted your career, day to day life, and your current self?

I think I had more opportunities to develop my leadership skills at an all girls school.  I also think it made me more confident in my intellectual abilities.  I built on that foundation and now lead a global team of over 100 people and need to advise on the most complex problems in the Company.  Beyond my career, I have met other remarkable women who attended Sacred Heart schools and we formed an instant bond and they have become some of my closest friends.   

What is your favorite Stuart memory?

I am not sure I have a favorite Stuart memory.  I have an amazing group of friends from Stuart and I see them often.  One of my friends is coming for a visit to Boston next week with her two sons and staying with me!

How do you see Stuart having shaped your leadership skills?

Stuart gave me many opportunities to be a leader and once you know that you can be a leader, you take that with you everywhere you go.

What were your favorite classes offered at Stuart?

My favorite classes were history classes.

If you participated in any extracurricular activities, what were they and how do you see them having played a role in your life after graduating?

I participated in Student government and the newspaper.  I also played JV tennis and lacrosse.  I was not good, but I laughed a lot.  I can still remember laughing on the tennis court with my doubles partner.  I am not sure if we ever won a match, but we had so much fun.

How did Stuart shape you both individually and academically?

Stuart helped build my confidence and self-esteem.  I think my parents did the heavy lifting, but Stuart was an important part.  For most of my life, I have been very comfortable in my own skin and that helped me focus on learning and helping others.

How has your time at Stuart made you unstoppable?

My time at Stuart helped me develop an understanding that I could be unstoppable, that nothing was out of reach and that I just needed to decide what I wanted to do.


Alumnae spotlight interviews by Isabel Milley '24, Advancement Intern