Becky Montague’s first few months as Mercy Academy’s president has been a whirlwind of meetings, but the highlight of her experience so far has been getting to know the students.
“It makes my day when they stop by and introduce themselves to me,” said
Montague during a recent interview at the school.
Montague was announced as Mercy’s new president earlier this year and has been at the helm since July 1. She was installed Sept. 24 during the school’s annual Mercy Day celebration.
Montague attended Mercy Academy in the late 80s and early 90s when the school — founded by the Sisters of Mercy — was located on East Broadway. Mercy’s current campus on Fegenbush Lane opened in 2007.
Montague graduated from Mercy in 1991. Afterward, she earned a master of science degree in social work and a master of arts degree in special education.
She went on to become a licensed clinical social worker. She served as the executive director of the Family Community Clinic on the campus of St. Joseph Church in Butchertown before being named president of the all-girl school.
Montague credits Mercy with the successes she’s had in life, she said.
“I loved my four years at Mercy Academy. I can think of no institution that had a more profound effect on who I became as an adult,” she said. She formed “very deep friendships and ties” in and out of the classroom. “It’s exciting to see their (high school friends’) daughters come to Mercy. That’s a special treat. I appreciate the circle of Mercy,” said Montague.
Since July 1, Montague said she’s been busy working on ways to enhance Mercy’s already “strong” academic program. She’s also identified three “road maps” to work on as she looks to the future, she said.
1. The endowment — “Growing the endowment is critical,” said Montague. “How do we make sure Mercy is here for girls 40 years from now?”
2. Financial aid — Montague said she recognizes that sending a student to Mercy is an “investment” and it may feel out of reach for some. “I don’t want tuition to be a barrier,” she said. “We need to raise money for financial aid.”
3. Academic programming — Montague said that Mercy has always been on the “cutting edge” of technology, having been the first all-girl school in the nation to earn STEM (science, technology, education and math) certification.
Now she wants to explore: “What’s the next reality in STEM? How do we get these young women to the next level? What will STEM look like in the next three or five years?”
Montague said Mercy is forming partnerships in the community, which will provide opportunities in the STEM field for students, she said. In addition, the school is renewing its STEM accreditation, which it earned in 2016. The school is up for renewal of its certification in January of 2021, Montague said.
Practical experience outside the classroom is very important, too, said Montague, noting that it’s something that Mercy did well during her days as a student.
At that time, Mercy had a partnership with Jewish Hospital that enabled students to work in the hospital.
“The program was called Nurse Mates and we were runners and assisted nurses. We were expected to work full shifts,” said Montague. When the student turned 18 she had the option to be trained and hired as a nursing assistant.
While Montague enjoyed her role, she learned she wanted to work in healthcare, but not as a nurse, she said. She went on to serve for 25 years in the healthcare field as a social worker.
Having this experience early in life was a “gift” given to her by Mercy Academy, she said. She wants to do the same for these Mercy students, she said.
Being named president of Mercy “gives me an opportunity to give back in a big way and I’m forever grateful for that,” said Montague.
Mercy’s principal, Sarah Peace, said Montague will help the school to further its mission.
“I love that Becky has a perspective as a Mercy girl. It’s invaluable,” said Peace. “Knowing what it’s like to be a woman of Mercy is very powerful to students as well.”
Peace added that Montague has brought relationships she created in the healthcare field with her to Mercy.
“There are some exciting projects in the works,” thanks to the “great relationships she fostered in the community,” Peace added. “Her passion and energy is very contagious. The energy and momentum behind her work is like a freight train and I’m excited to be on board.”
Montague and her husband Chris, a 1990 DeSales High School graduate, have a son who is a junior at Trinity High School and a daughter at Ramsey Middle School.