Mary Stewart-Joyce

Once Fisher helped this high schooler discover her voice, even world leaders took notice.


I HOPE YOU ALL KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE. Thirty-one years ago, I was a nervous girl from the North Shore of Long Island walking into the first floor quad room of Robert Smith Hall at 106 Beacon St. The reality of my mother just leaving me in Boston was difficult to grasp. I left behind my friends and family (not to mention my dog) and entered a world where I knew no one.
I was not a motivated high school student. My teachers and counselors always told me I was lazy, underachieving, and basically a disorganized mess. One even warned, “Don’t set your sights too high.”

I envisioned a future at the local community college, a continuation of my miserable high school career. Then I got my acceptance to Fisher Junior College. I figured I’d give it a try but my hopes weren’t high. 

On my first academic day, we took placement tests. When the results were posted, I expected to hear the same things I had in high school. I had no idea what the class sections I had qualified for meant, so when my first English class had only four other students, I thought I was on some remedial track. 
Nonetheless, I listened, took notes, and made the decision that I would do my best.After a week or so, the professor asked if any of us would care to tutor other students. 

Huh? What was that? Here’s the thing.

At Fisher, I had a clean slate. None of the professors had preconceived notions about my intellect. And I had placed in the highest honor track. They actually saw potential! In me!

That changed everything.
I started to ask questions in class, to talk to other students. I found I had a voice and people listened. I explored every inch of Boston and realized how blessed I was to be studying American history where so much of it happened. I got a job at Harvard Vanguard and was able to support myself. I went from being an only child to having dorms full of friends. 

In the longer run, I became a world traveler. When I met people I was able to look them in the eye and hold a conversation, rarities before my time at Fisher. 

In my various careers, I have interact-ed with world leaders, celebrities, even royalty, among them Mikhail Gorbachev, Yitzhak Perlman, Robert Kennedy Jr., Nadia Comăneci, and Sarah, the Duchess of York. Had it not been for the knowledge I gained at Fisher College, I doubt I would have been able to muster the courage to sit and talk with them.

So, to anyone who might feel “less than” or simply scared, I say open up to the gift that is Fisher. 

Surprise yourself. Raise your hand. Speak up. Look up from your phones, take out your AirPods, and listen to your professors and the heartbeat of the amazing city of Boston. There’s always something to do, someone to meet, and something to learn.

Mary Stewart-Joyce is an executive global travel consultant for Kalitta Air, a private charter aviation service in Michigan. 

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