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Part Four To and From Omaha

On June 30, 1969, the Women’s Job Corp. closed its doors, mainly due to opposition from local businessmen working in the downtown area. As this opportunity ended for Mary, another emerged. She was hired by UNO in September of that year as a counselor and instructor for undecided and undeclared students. Not even ten years later, in 1977, she became the Director of New Student Orientation, a position that she held until 1981.

Although her work kept her busy, Mary still found time to start a family and even begin work on her doctoral degree at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. “That was a long haul,” said Mary. “I had two kids then. We made it, and I didn’t get a speeding ticket going back and forth to Lincoln.” A smile slowly spread across her face as she continued: “I was leaving Lincoln at 9:30 or 10 at night, and in order not to fall asleep on the drive home, I had to drive with my window down to keep my eyes open. I’d take two classes at a time, twice a week. It was quite a haul for a number of years. Six… seven… eight” (Interview). But, she eventually graduated with her Doctorate in Higher Education Administration in 1984.

Mary worked at UNO for another two years after completing her degree until her mother fell ill in 1986. She moved her family back to Atlanta to care for her mother until she passed away in 1988.  Although she enjoyed being in Atlanta, a poor housing market made it difficult to move permanently. With “a house full of stuff in Omaha,” and an 18 percent interest rate, “we couldn’t put the roots down that we wanted to [in Atlanta].”

Mary moved back to Omaha after working as Dean of Students at Mars Brown for two years. “When I came back, I started knocking on the doors again, asking, ‘You got any jobs?’” She laughed softly at the memory. “And Dr. Joe Davis, who I consider to be my mentor—he’s retired now—said the position of [Counseling Center Director] was open. So, I came back and was director of the UNO Counseling Center and University Division” (Interview).

After working in that position for a number of years, Mary became the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Development Services, which meant being in charge of a number of areas such as the Testing Center and Disability Services.

In 1999, Mary became Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. As Vice Chancellor, Mary was responsible for overseeing all student support activities. The Milo Bail Student Center, campus recreation, counseling, admissions, financial aid, testing, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs all reflect the energy Mary put into her work and the love she has for higher education and the University.

 

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Part Five Bringing Progress to UNO

Mary has been an integral part of the University over the years. Among her greatest accomplishments at UNO, the two facets of her work of which she is most proud, are bringing Project Achieve to the University and getting student housing on campus.

Project Achieve is a student support service aimed at first generation college students. Mary wrote the grant that obtained the funding for this program, and it has been successfully renewed every four years since 1993. Mary reflected, “One of the things I’m really, really proud about is that I was able to write a grant—the first federal grant in this area that was awarded—for Project Achieve. The goal of the project was to support students who didn’t have anyone at home to say, ‘Did you get your application turned in?’ ‘Did you file for financial aid?’—things parents who