Mary Pawlenty Biography & Resources
Mary Elizabeth Anderson was the fifth daughter of Edina, Minnesota contractor Wilfred Anderson and his wife Beulah. Mary graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in political science from Bethel College in 1983 and received her J.D. with honors from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1986. Following graduation, Mary accepted a position with the Houston, Texas law firm of Vinson and Elkins. She returned to Minnesota to marry Tim Pawlenty, whom she had met at law school. The Pawlentys settled in Eagan, Minnesota and had two daughters.
Mary Pawlenty worked as a civil litigator with the firm of Rider, Bennett, Egan and Arundel until 1994, when she was appointed judge of Dakota County District Court by Gov. Arne Carlson. As a district judge, Mary was unable to campaign for or promote her husband's candidacy for governor, and the family was unable to live in the Governor's Residence, as Mary was required to reside in her judicial district. Mary resigned her judgeship in 2007 and accepted a position with the National Arbitration Forum as general counsel, and later became a mediator/arbitrator with the Gilbert Mediation Center in Minnesota. In 2009 she took the role of Director of Medical Diplomacy for Children's HeartLink, an international medical nonprofit dedicated to preventing and curing heart disease among needy children in developing countries.
As first lady, Mary visited elementary schools to teach students about democracy and government, and created the First Lady's Hearth Health Initiative, a heart disease awareness campaign for women. Mary traveled extensively with her husband on goodwill and trade missions, including trips to Bosnia, Kosovo, India, Israel and South America, and hosted dignitaries from around the world, including President Fox of Mexico, President Sharif Ahmed of Somalia, and Ambassador Shankar Sharma of India. She also served as the chairperson of the National Governor's Association Spouses Leadership Committee.
Committed to Minnesota's military families, Mary attended and spoke at many deployment ceremonies and hosted "Military Babies" receptions at the Governor's Residence. In 2003 she established the First Lady's Military Family Care Initiative, a web-based program that allowed community-based organizations to volunteer their time and services to help families of deployed servicemen and women. In recognition of this program Mary received the "Patrick Henry Award" from the U.S. National Guard Association. She was also awarded the Order of St. Maurice Civic Award from the National Infantry Division and the Superior Volunteer Service Award in honor of her work for Minnesota's military service members and their families.