After 48 Years of Service, Mary Gavan to Retire
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
June 21, 2018
ROCKFORD—Mary Gavan quotes Winnie the Pooh (author A. A. Milne) to summarize her upcoming retirement this summer after 44 years of service at Boylan Central Catholic High School: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
“Although I would say I am blessed rather than merely lucky,” she adds.
Gavan, a 1966 Muldoon High School graduate, majored in English at Mundelein College. But it was only after college that she opted to enter the field of education when she accepted an invitation to join the faculty at St. Edward School in Rockford. Teaching at St. Patrick School followed, for a total of four years in elementary education.
She then moved to secondary education, joining Boylan’s faculty in the fall of 1974 as a reading specialist. She developed its remedial reading program as part of the English curriculum. 
“One of the most joyful things I can say I will take away from my life as a teacher is when a former student tells me, ‘I read my first book in your reading class,’” Gavan says. “That was always a joy when a kid got excited about reading who had never had any affinity for it before.”
From 1977 to 2009, Gavan served as Boylan’s Yearbook Advisor. She says that role was a “great opportunity to open students’ eyes to the joy and responsibility of archiving a year of school life.” 
“It’s not just a memory book,” she says, adding that she told her students, “in this class if you don’t do your work, you let down the entire school community.”
She mentions a Boylan graduate, now head of a company, who told her recently, “What I learned in yearbook class, I still use in my business every week.” He is just one of many students, she says, “over the generations ... wherever they are, they’re doing all kinds of work, but they always harken back not only to the journalism skills but the team” where they learned to pitch in and develop new skills as needed.
From 1994 to 1998, Gavan chaired Boylan’s English Department before entering her current role of Assistant Principal, School Relations. “I was beyond honored to be the first woman, lay woman, to be in administration here,” she says.
Gavan also was the first lay woman to facilitate Boylan’s Junior Girls Retreat Program.
“The junior girls retreats were absolutely a privilege,” she says, noting however, “How frightened we young, lay women were to take it on ... it was in the late ‘70s, and all the sisters were leaving who had been affiliated with this program. I remember us asking (each other), ‘Do you think we can do this? Do we have the right to?’
“It was a different time in the Church (and not easy) for young, lay women to feel that they could do anything spiritual ... (but) then the most amazing things would happen, and we’d say the Holy Spirit would took care of it all.”
Even after years of service in administration, Gavan says she still thinks of herself as a teacher, and she notes the “excitement each year, having the kids walk in to start a new chapter” in their lives.
“Mary Gavan is truly an embodiment of what it means to Be Boylan and support our students academically, emotionally and faithfully,” says Boylan President Amy Ott.
Gavan points to a 1992 fire in the school gym the week of graduation as an example of that Boylan spirit. The fire happened on Monday. Graduation was on Friday.
“The curtain in the gym caught fire,” she says. “The gym was in complete disarray – water, smoke, broken glass all over.” Area churches, the then-Metro Center and Rock Valley College all stepped forward to offer their facilities, but the seniors voted to graduate at their school.
They hired a restoration company of course, Gavan says, “but also the community pulled together. Parents, faculty and students scrubbed and cleaned, painted over the wall that was charred ... Sad, but it’s beautiful because it so speaks to what Boylan is all about – community, in the Lord.”
She experienced that community again when her fellow teacher and husband, Bob, died. They had met on her first day at Boylan and were married in 1977. She says it was “a blessing to live and work together” over 23 years. 
“When he died (in 2001), this was the place that supported me, not only financially, but emotionally and spiritually,” she says.
Although June 30 is her last official day at the school, when asked about post-retirement plans, Gavan grins and says she’ll be helping with the Boylan website for a while and also has volunteered to help organize the Boylan archives. 
Besides that, she quotes Drew Faust, the president of Harvard University who, when asked about her own June 30 retirement, said, “Well, I’m going to figure out who I am.”
Gavan says she is looking forward to “a little travel,” volunteerism, her parish, gardening, to “really read again with a mind that’s clear,” to have time to spend in adoration and pursue a long-ago love of drawing, saying “I hope to fill some sketchbooks.”
And of course, she looks forward to having time “to watch my grandchildren grow up ... just that kind of thing.”
As someone who can point to times throughout her life where God provided her with unexpected opportunities, Gavan knows that He could have additional ideas for her retirement.
“If there are other things the Lord’s calling me to,” she says, “I will be happy to embrace them.”