Julie Noolan, AM'68, PhD'74, MBA'83

Paying it forward

After “a little luck” helped her get into graduate school, Julie Noolan helps future students.

When she applied for admission to the University of Chicago’s Graduate Library School in 1966, Julie Noolan, AM’68, PhD’74, MBA’83, had a few strikes against her. Though she’d worked as a librarian in her native Australia, she’d never gone to college. In fact, she hadn’t completed high school. But she did have stellar references, strong entrance exam scores, and a dean of students, Noolan remembers, who had “faith that all would work out in the long run.”

It did. Now Noolan is paying that faith forward and honoring her late husband by endowing the Daniel T. Carroll Fellowship at the University of Chicago. Her gift, a combination of a charitable remainder unitrust and a charitable gift annuity, will support students studying in the Divinity School.

Noolan ranged across the University in her own library school days: classes at the business school and at the National Opinion Research Center, a dissertation committee comprising a physicist, a statistician, a political scientist, and, for good measure, a librarian.

Even before graduating, Noolan had started a five-year stint as the Medical Library Association’s first director of education. It was during this time that Noolan met Daniel Carroll, a management consultant who had also served Fortune 500 companies in various leadership roles. Noolan, who had divorced during graduate school—“That was my practice husband,” she quips—knew she had found her “soul mate.” Carroll, who did two years of doctoral work at UChicago in the ’40s, had always revered the University, thanks to his father, a professor at the University of Vermont.

“Dan always thought Chicago was the best university in the world,” Noolan says. “I always jokingly said he fell in love with me knowing nothing else about me except that I had a PhD from the University of Chicago.”

Noolan added an MBA through the executive program at what is now the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a few years later she and Carroll formed their own consulting company. Noolan credits her UChicago training for her strength as a consultant. “I did my homework and was always thorough in collecting data and being able to defend statements I made. I got that analytical and intellectual rigor from my education.” Noolan also developed a special interest in organizational development, eventually teaching the subject at American University in Washington, DC.

Carroll, meanwhile, had joined the Visiting Committee to the Divinity School. He’d always been interested in religious education and had consulted for the Episcopal Church. “He enjoyed the intellectual stimulation,” Noolan says. Carroll stepped down from the visiting committee the year before his 2007 death.

Noolan retired in 2014 but continues what she calls her life’s goal: “to help create level playing fields, because we don’t all start at the same starting line when we come into this world.” That’s a big part of the motivation behind her Divinity School gift, she says, quoting a favorite lyric from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: “‘Anyone from anywhere can make it / If they get a lucky break’—just as I feel I had a little luck being accepted into GLS without credentials.”