Dec05_107How do you say courage, class and conviction in the same breath? that would be one Mary Hagerty.

Mary Hagerty, second to the left and second to the right here in this photo (and appropriate as well, because she is always centered in the cause of HOPE, education, self-reliance and opportunity), in addition to being a friend of the family, is our senior vice president and chief of financial literacy at Operation HOPE. That means that part of Mary’s legacy, along with her incredible team, is the educated of more than 161,000 young, low-wealth, mostly urban black and Latino youth, in financial literacy, economic education, self-help and silver rights. Silver rights soldiers in the making, they are, thanks to Mary’s leadership and commitment.

Mary came to the cause in the mid-1990’s from Habitat for Humanity, where she single handily built their Los Angeles office as a start-up, resulting in the first 30 plus new homes being constructed through a 100% volunteer commitment in Watts, California, for the least of these. As Dr. Dorothy Heights once said, "self help, sometimes needs a little help." Mary exemplifies this commitment to doing well by doing good.

Since became a member of the HOPE family, which started sitting in a meeting in my office, with me doing my best to discourage her, should she have any hint of hesitation whatsoever — which she didn’t I might add, Mary has filled many "diverse" rolls. And by diverse, notable in the early years of HOPE, I meant "walking and courageous enough to try (smile)." We needed someone to supervise the construction of our first HOPE Center on La Brea Avenue in South Los Angeles — and Mary got the job (you should have seen her out there in a hard hat, directing hard core construction workers around in 1996!). Then came a need for a development person — and Mary got the job (1997, I believe). Then came a need in grants administration in 1998, and Mary again got the job.

And then Mary finally came to me and said, "John, give me something I am passionate about doing, and then leave me alone to focus," or something to that effect. That visionary request from Mary took, and she opened our first office in New York City, around her passionate interest in financial literacy and now, silver rights, and today that office, run by our own Jennifer Riveiro, has educated more than 16,000 youth in what we call "Life 101" skills. The Chicago office, run by our own Bill Robinson, has educated more than 15,000 youth, and the Los Angeles office, where it all began and now run by great Norma Jasso and equally great Diona Moore, has educated more than 90,000 youth in financial literacy. And now there are more than 15 cities with Banking on Our Future, and we should be in 20 cities by the middle of 2006. Bravo Mary Hagerty…. bravo.

Finally, Mary recently had a challenge of her health…but even with our urging, she never wavered from her commitment to HOPE, her team, nor those children. Someone once said, "a person can indeed be judged by the decisions they make when no one is looking." This is Mary Hagerty. Truly, a "leader within HOPE."

Proud of you Mary. Proud. And the best is yet to come…. Get completely healthy and take your vitamins — you’re going to need it (smile).

Onward, with HOPE 

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