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Strong Voice, Warm Heart, "My Chicago Mom"

Published: June 28, 2013

Go to ACM Notes

Teacher, mentor, and friend for a lifetime. Tireless activist for social justice and a strong voice for those in need. Avid crafter and knitter.

Her door is always open, her welcome is always warm and heartfelt, and there’s always room for another person around her table for dinner.

It seems like everyone you meet knows her, and that being in her circle of friends makes the big city of Chicago feel like a small town.

Snapshots from Mary's retirement party

Snapshots of Mary Scott-Boria at her retirement party (from top): with Chicago program colleagues Robyne Hart, Brittany Wisniewski, and Dorothy Burge before and after they presented her with the honorary tiara and sash; with her sister, Margaret Scott; and with her husband, Rafael Boria, friend Mary Malloy, and grandson Amar.

She's an inspiration. And, in the words of one of her former students, she will forever be "my Chicago mom."

Those were just a few of the ways that Chicago Program faculty member Mary Scott-Boria was described when more than 80 colleagues, former students, family, and friends gathered to honor her at a retirement party.

The tributes came pouring in

All were there to pay tribute and to thank a woman whose generous spirit has enriched the lives of everyone she knows – and, clearly, Scott-Boria knows a lot of people.

"When we sent out the invitations to Mary's retirement party, the tributes came pouring in," said Chicago Program director Robyne Hart. Many of those tributes, written in brightly-colored chalk, adorned the program's blackboard wall that students have used each semester to chart their growing understanding of Chicago – much of that understanding the result of Scott-Boria's teaching.

"Mary, you have given so much to so many. Enjoy the flowers of the garden you've grown."

"Congrats! You are an inspiration to everyone."

"Mary, you made a difference in my life and I count myself lucky to have been your student."

"Thank you for being the provocative freedom fighter you are."

"Mary is a national treasure."

Scott-Boria's many former students at the gathering on June 5 at the Chicago Program office thanked her for always encouraging them to find and pursue their passions in life. She, in turn, thanked her students "for all that they have taught me."

For more than three decades, Scott-Boria has been a civic leader devoted to a wide variety of issues – concerning women, youth, anti-violence, and racial justice, to name a few – at community organizations including the Chicago Sexual Assault Services Network, Youth Services Project (YSP), Metropolitan YWCA, Clergy and Laity Concerned, Christian Peacemakers Teams, Mikva Challenge Foundation, and CLAIM (Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers).

Her first connections to ACM and the Urban Studies Program, a predecessor of the current Chicago Program, stretch back nearly 25 years, when she would occasionally serve as a guest speaker for the program, or teach a seminar, or host an internship for an Urban Studies student. In 2000, Scott-Boria joined the program's faculty full time, and several years later was named Director.

With Chicago Program students

A familiar sight: Mary Scott-Boria leading Chicago Program students on a field trip.

Retirement? Not quite...

While Scott-Boria has now had an official retirement party, that doesn't mean she has any plans to quit working anytime soon.

This fall, she will again be teaching for the Chicago Program – though on a part-time basis – guiding students as they work on their independent study projects.

Scott-Boria said she expects to engage with her students in what she calls a "mini-seminar" designed to help them create the networks of resources – people, organizations, sources of information – that they will use in completing their projects.

So, "retired" or not, it's an absolute certainty that this fall, once again, there will be a new crop of Chicago Program students who will always think of Mary Scott-Boria as "my Chicago mom."


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