Mary Lou Quinlan, GABELLI ’82, is an author, actor, entrepreneur, marketer, speaker, and an advocate for women.
Mary Lou’s career began at Avon Products, where she rose to director of advertising before moving to the advertising industry and being named the first female CEO of the ad agency N.W. Ayer & Partners. Later she founded her own women’s marketing company, Just Ask a Woman, which advised dozens of major brands—including Procter&Gamble, Pfizer, Wells Fargo, and General Motors—on what women want.
Mary Lou is the author of four books, including What She’s Not Telling You, Time Off for Good Behavior, and Just Ask a Woman. Her latest, The God Box, a memoir about her mother, quickly became a New York Times bestseller and inspired another career evolution. She co-wrote, produced, and for the past five years has been performing her companion solo show The God Box, A Daughter’s Story across the United States, including off-Broadway, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and in 12 cities in Ireland. The God Box Project has raised nearly $500,000 for hospice, cancer care, and education causes.
Mary Lou has written feature articles for Real Simple and O, The Oprah Magazine, as well as a monthly career column for MORE. She has appeared as a correspondent on The Early Show on CBS and co-starred on the Simon Cowell-produced ABC TV series American Inventor. She has attended more than 500 conferences and events as a keynote speaker and authority on women, including the 1995 Gabelli School of Business commencement ceremony. She’s currently at work on a new solo show about women’s careers aptly called Work.
Mary Lou earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where she served as a trustee for 10 years and endowed a scholarship for undergraduate women. She earned her M.B.A. in marketing from the Gabelli School of Business and has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees by five U.S. universities. She has been named Ad Woman of the Year by Advertising Women of New York, received the Matrix Award from Women in Communications, and earned many other honors. She is an active philanthropist for causes close to her heart, including the Irish Repertory Theatre, the Ireland Funds, and the Irish Arts Center, as well as her grade school in Philadelphia, and of course Fordham University.