Mary Toole

Mary Toole

1/18/24, 9:01 AM
Mary Toole

Alumni Spotlight

Mary Toole

Liberal Arts

my Chance

Even though Mary Toole was born and brought up in Pittsfield, she finds herself reacclimating to the community after a 50-year absence. Her busy career took her to Long Island and Manhattan before she retired in February and moved back to the area in June. Now settled in her parents' former home in Hancock, Mary is finally allowing the pace of life to slow down.

"I am learning to try and relax," she says. "For most of my adult life, I have been involved with my career, which included projects late in day or evening."

Her path from the Berkshires to New York City and back again was a circuitous one. After graduating from St. Joseph's High School in Pittsfield in 1967, she enrolled at BCC.

"I was a person who studied very hard to get good grades," recalls Mary, who graduated BCC in 1969 with an associate degree in liberal arts. With plans to become a math teacher, she went to North Adams State College (now MCLA) and earned a bachelor's degree in math with a minor in secondary education.

But Mary soon found that math teaching jobs were not plentiful. She took substitute teaching jobs at North Adams High School and Mount Greylock Regional School before landing a job at Northfield Mount Hermon School on the Northfield, Massachusetts campus (today, the school has one campus in Mount Hermon, Massachusetts). Unable to secure full-time employment, she accepted a job a year later at the Cathedral School of St. Mary in Garden City, Long Island, a private day school for girls. There, she was a math teacher for grades 9 through 12.

"I became the department chair, I was dean of students for one year, and I was the administrative assistant to the head of school," Mary says. "I was responsible for scheduling, report cards, graduation — a lot of hands-on stuff."

After 14 years on the job, Mary decided it was time to move on. She took a position as the scheduling officer at the New York Institute of Technology, a four-year university on Long Island with three campuses.

"I was on the Westbury campus, but I responsible for Westbury, Central Islip and Manhattan," she says. "Somehow, with my mathematical brain, I figured it all out."

Eventually, Mary got laid off and moved to Arthur Anderson in Manhattan as a training coordinator. "That's when my whole career started to turn," she says. "I was very involved with my church and did a lot of volunteer work. While I was working at Arthur Anderson, I started studying to become a chaplain, intending to do something in my free time when I retired."

That idea changed when Mary left Arthur Anderson, took a brief stint as an office manager at Burrelles, and resigned after she realized she wanted to pursue becoming a chaplain full time.

The training to become a chaplain included four clinical units, which took 400 hours each to complete, with midterms and finals. Mary also earned a master's degree in theology. At the end of the training period, she presented the required credentials to the National Association of Catholic Chaplains for the completion of the process to become a board certified chaplain. She then took a position at St. Francis Hospital and Heart Center in Roslyn, NY where she had previously completed her internship.

"I knew I had died and gone to heaven. I enjoyed it tremendously," says Mary, who rotated throughout various units in the hospital. Her last rotation, which was in the ER, began just before COVID-19 struck.

"I asked not to be rotated, so for the last three years of my career, I was dealing with COVID patients, right up until the day I retired," says Mary, who worked at the hospital for 19 years before her retirement.

Looking back on her long career, Mary still praises BCC for paving the way to her success.

I was the first family member to attend and graduate from college. BCC got me started on my education career. It took me to North Adams State to Adelphi, where I got my masters in math, to Hofstra, where I got a certificate of advanced study in educational administration.

Mary Toole

Mary also remembers the personal attention she received at BCC.

"The small classes and the support of the teachers were very important to me," she says. "I continued to use the teaching skills I learned at BCC throughout my entire career."

Today, Mary spends her time gardening at her home in Hancock, reading fiction and exploring spiritual works. Recently, a friend encouraged her to join the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at BCC.

"I signed up and got a 50% discount for the first year because I'm a BCC alum," Mary says. "The reason was to meet people and to keep my brain going. I wanted to have some activity. It's great to be working in the yard, but I need to meet people. I'm a people person."

Mary imparts words of wisdom to those thinking about advancing their education but are unsure they can handle it.

"You need to try your dreams. Only by trying will you know if you're going to make it or not," she says. "You don't want to get to the end of your life regretting. I would never have gotten where I am without BCC. It gave me the chance to try."