‘Immense gratitude for those along the way’: News of alumna’s promotion looks forward to VWIL’s 25th anniversary year

MBU congratulates alumna and former cadet in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) Commander Kathleen Mahoney ’00 on the news that she will be promoted to captain (pay grade O6) in the U.S. Navy

“Being selected for captain is as humbling as it is exciting,” said Mahoney, currently serving as a human resources officer in the Office of the Naval Inspector General. “This is absolutely the pinnacle of my career, a career I never planned to have when I graduated in 2000. I joined the Navy out of tradition and a sense of adventure and found something I was incredibly passionate about — people and their success.”

Commander Kathleen Mahoney ’00 received news that she will be promoted to captain in the U.S. Navy (left); with her son in 2017 when she was guest speaker for the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) Family Weekend parade (right). A former VWIL cadet, she commissioned as ensign in 2000 two days before she graduated from Mary Baldwin.

The naval rank of captain is equivalent to that of colonel in the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Promotion to this level is rare, with only 2% of officers achieving the rank in the military services.

News of Mahoney’s success looks forward to the celebration of VWIL’s 25th anniversary during the 2020–21 academic year. The first class of cadets joined VWIL in August 1995, and more than 460 students have completed the program — still the nation’s only all-women corps of cadets — thus far. 

“I get goosebumps thinking about when I told my dad that I had been selected for captain. He teared up and said he needed a minute. I feel immense gratitude for those along the way who challenged me, pushed me, and, of course, sometimes pulled me along.”

A third generation Navy sailor and granddaughter of a Pearl Harbor survivor, Mahoney commissioned as ensign in the Navy two days before she graduated from Mary Baldwin in 2000. First assigned the position of electrical officer on the USS Leyte Gulf, she has deployed three times between 2001 and 2005, twice to the Arabian Gulf and once to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. She now lives in Arlington with her husband, Commander Paul Mahoney, and their four children.  

“Being a VWIL cadet put me on the road for success no matter where I was headed. Certainly a lot of the structure provided a great foundation for the military, but the leadership, resilience to adversity, and confidence the corps gave me ensured I was ready for anything.”

VWIL is celebrating its 25th anniversary during the 2020–21 academic year, with more than 460 students having completed the program thus far.

“Commander Mahoney is one of 19 VWIL alumni who commissioned in the Navy,” said Brigadier General (retired) Terry Djuric, VWIL commandant. “She continues to stay engaged with her alma mater. In 2017, Commander Mahoney returned to campus with her parents and young family to join the VWIL corps of cadets as our guest speaker at our annual Family Weekend parade. We were so proud when we heard the good news of CDR Mahoney’s promotion selection and sent her well wishes from the VWIL Corps of Cadets.”

After graduating, VWIL alumnae both join the military and pursue civilian careers in public service fields including intelligence, foreign service, teaching, social services, law enforcement, medicine, and law. 

In Mary Baldwin history, Mahoney is one of the few graduates to achieve O6 rank. Three alumni preceding her are Colonel Melissa Patrick ’78, who retired from active military service in 2006 after a trailblazing career in the Army, including being the first woman selected to participate in the U.S. Army War College Advanced Strategic Arts Program; Winifred Love ’35, who was in the first WAVES officer class in 1942 and remained on active duty until she retired as a captain; and Ruth Owen Littell ’40, who entered the WAVES in 1943 and continued in the Navy Reserve after the end of WWII, also retiring as a captain. Mahoney’s promotion will be effective September 1, 2021.