Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

Retiree Profile: Catherine C. Veal

Catherine C. Veal started working at the Illinois Math and Science Academy during its charter year, and served the Academy from 1986 through her retirement this year. She has worked across positions and departments, serving as Vice President for Strategy and Policy and as IMSA's third President. As a tribute to our 2015 retirees, we asked Cathy a few questions about her IMSA experience.

What is your most cherished IMSA memory?

29 years = many cherished memories. I can't pick just one. I have three: start-up, the first two years; meaningful high-impact collaborations; and time in the presence of greatness.


(A) Start-up, the first two years. We had so much going against us; many wanted us to fail. But we had a secret sauce going FOR us. We shared Dr. Lederman's and Dr. Marshall's vision, we put our stakes in the ground, we pulled together in the same direction, and we successfully navigated all kinds of challenges. "We fought the law, and we won!"

(B) Meaningful high-impact collaborations. Working closely with IMSA people, especially board members, alumni, staff colleagues and key advisers, to advance big opportunities (e.g. IN2, TALENT, Fusion, calculus-based physics study, strategic planning) and handle big challenges (e.g. FY03 budget crisis, invasion of ALS into our community, external opposition to our pioneering LGBQT programming 20 years ago) was challenging, invigorating and fulfilling.

(C) Time in the presence of greatness. As just one example, I will always cherish the day when Rosa Parks, joined by Studs Terkel and Mamie Till Mobley, graced our campus. And the opportunity to rub shoulders with Dr. Leon Lederman on a regular basis, priceless.

What are your post-retirement plans?

We're planning to move to the North Carolina mountains in the first half of 2016 or possibly sooner, so life now is about decluttering and preparing for that. Once we're settled there, I look forward to more time with family and friends, trying my hand at some new work, leading community projects, and enjoying the beauty and culture of the Asheville area. I also look forward to continuing to support IMSA as a volunteer and donor.

What are your hopes for IMSA's future?

I hope IMSA will be willing and able to pioneer, innovate and lead again in ways befitting our storied past, that make sense, and that are relevant for future needs -- needs of students, needs of teachers and educational partners, and needs of our state, nation and world. I hope our deep roots hold as we evolve. I hope we tap and leverage the expertise of our alumni and partners to grow strategically. I hope we find good ways to demonstrate our value and impact. I hope we stretch and strive. I hope IMSA's best days are ahead of her. 

IMSA would not be what it is without Cathy's tireless dedication to improving it in the important roles she played throughout her time at the Academy. On behalf of IMSA's faculty, staff, and students, we thank her for all of her years of service to the Academy.