Mary Butz was a longtime teacher and administrator in New York City public schools who later worked as an educational consultant before recently retiring. A member of SJC Brooklyn’s Class of 1969 and now serving on the College’s Board of Trustees, the Park Slope, Brooklyn, native was the first female member of her family to graduate from college. She said that she now spends her time collecting and selling wines, cooking, traveling across the globe and tending to her vegetable garden.
Q. Please talk about the importance placed on education in your upbringing and what inspired you to pursue higher education.
A. My immigrant parents thought it was important for their son to be educated, but they weren’t too sure about their daughters. My sister chose not to go to college, but I was determined to. I knew that a college education would save my life and open the world to me. And it did.
Q. What was your major at St. Joe’s?
A. I majored in history with two minors — one in social science and the other in secondary education. SJC’s philosophy was that, in order to be a good high school teacher, you HAD to own your subject. The emphasis was on the academics. Consequently, when we went out to look for teaching positions, we were seldom disappointed. The College had, and still does have, a great reputation for educating teachers who are well prepared and successful.
Q. Please describe your experience as a student at St. Joseph’s College.
A. Going to St. Joseph’s was a gift for me. I applied, but my folks were not interested in sending me to college, never mind paying for college! I came from a poor immigrant family, and college was not on the horizon for me. In August before the school year began, I received a phone call from S. Vincent Therese, president of the College. She told me that the alumnae association had created a scholarship that year — the Monsignor Dillon scholarship — and that I was the first recipient. I was stunned, grateful and overjoyed. I loved (the College) from the moment I walked in the door. St. Joseph’s is a place that cares about its students, and I knew I would thrive there.
Q. What is it about St. Joseph’s College that makes you want to continue to stay involved in such an impactful way?
A. I will always be grateful for the excellent education I received. It changed my life. The College, under the leadership of the Sisters of St. Joseph, gave me access to a new world. I want the College to thrive, but to also be a place that always welcomes students like me — first-generation Americans who need the love, respect and support that St. Joseph’s offers.
Q. Talk about the excitement the College is experiencing at all levels regarding President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., now in his second year as president.
A. Dr. Boomgaarden is a well-rounded, sensitive, caring college president. A perfect fit for our school. He brings us the mindset of a person who is trained in music: listening, patience and creativity.
Q. Please share your thoughts on the growth of St. Joseph’s in recent decades.
A. Establishing a campus on Long Island was a huge risk for the Sisters of St. Joseph, and it has paid off in the most wonderful way. I often meet students and alumni, and they echo my feelings for the College. SJC pays attention to the world we live in and provides programs that lead to success based on that world. These programs are created not to make a “buck,” but to provide meaningful careers for a new generation of youngsters. The College has changed its looks, but not its values of commitment to the individual, community and our greater world.