Tarleton commencement speaker takes core values to heart

STEPHENVILLE (August 7, 2019) — It’s one of Tarleton State University’s core values.

And one of Mary Jo MacGregor’s guiding principles.

Service.

The retired Marine Corps officer plans to begin a second career as she gets her master’s degree in social work from Tarleton State University in 4 p.m. graduation ceremonies Friday, where she will deliver the commencement address.

Service is in her DNA. She first sensed a need to help others in her elementary and high school education.

“That comes from my upbringing,” she said. “It comes from my family. It comes from the choices and sacrifices my family made to send me to Catholic schools.”

Now a Weatherford resident, Mary Jo grew up in Waukesha, Wis., and received her commission in the Marine Corps through U.S. Navy ROTC training at Northwestern University. Retiring as a colonel, she served more than 25 years, including three combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and deployment with the United Nations in Western Sahara, Africa.

She moved to Texas with her husband, also a retired USMC officer, to be closer to his daughter. She decided to pursue a master’s in social work after volunteering for several years after her 2011 retirement.

She loved the volunteer work, much of it in child welfare. She also has worked as a court-appointed special advocate in Parker and Palo Pinto counties and was a reading mentor for her neighborhood elementary school.

“It was through my volunteer work with CASA I kept running into people from Tarleton,” she said. “I met people from different fields. I met educators, caseworkers in Child Protective Services or people who were volunteering or working at the CASA program. They were all doing very positive things with their degrees.”

During her studies, she realized her military tenure had opened the door for her subsequent social work career.

“I was a logistics officer in the Marine Corps, and my classmates kept pointing out things I had done as a Marine, especially in taking care of Marines and taking care of their families, that were very closely related to social work practice.”

As a student at Tarleton, Mary Jo participated in a social work study abroad opportunity in Costa Rica, was selected for Phi Alpha Honor Society for social work students as well as Alpha Chi National College Honor Society, and is this year’s outstanding graduate of the master social work program.

She said Tarleton afforded her opportunities for excellence that might not exist elsewhere.

“Tarleton offers so many outside-the-classroom learning opportunities,” she said. “I feel more prepared to be competent in a wide range of situations working with a wide range of people. Working with people outside the actual classroom is a big reason for that.”

The master social work program requires a field practicum. In her first placement, Mary Jo worked at a North Texas nonprofit providing services to youth who have aged out of foster care. Later she was placed at a Tarrant County high school.

She has kept her commencement speech from her family members, including her 85-year-old mother, who is coming to Friday’s ceremony from Wisconsin.

“It’ll be a surprise for the fam,” she said.

If the opportunity arises, Mary Jo could see herself in sales. She convinced her daughter to transfer to Tarleton’s Stephenville campus from the University of Hawaii, although “part of that may have been the promise of laundry services.”

Though unsure of where her new career will take her, Mary Jo knows she will continue her life of service.

“I don’t know which population I will go out and work with, but I’d like to work with people who are struggling with homelessness, people who are struggling with poverty. I’d like to help them find a ladder or build a ladder to walk up and out of that.”

That’s carrying the core values into a career of service.

A second career of service.


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