Winter 2016-17

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Paying it Forward

Sandy (Mayo) MacDonald’s 35-year commitment to scholarships at SJC.

By Ann Swardlick

When Sandy (Mayo) MacDonald ’81 showed up to register for classes in fall of 1977, there were two lines: one for nursing students and one for everyone else.

“That’s how we did it back then,” laughs MacDonald. “We stood in long lines on registration day, and the longest by far was for nursing. Now, Saint Joseph’s College is such a different place.”

So true: Saint Joseph’s has grown from an on-campus enrollment of 400 in the mid-seventies to 1,000 today. Students choose from 40 majors, and they don’t line up in Xavier Hall to register. Nursing remains popular, but business, the sciences, and education are among many fast-growing programs. And MacDonald would no longer be one of just three women majoring in business.

Looking back, she appreciates the college that allowed her to become her own person. 

“I was fortunate to have parents who were so supportive of my education,” recalls MacDonald. “My mother never got past 8th grade and my dad got his GED in order to become a police officer. He was determined to see his daughter go to college.”

Her goal was to get a business education at a school that was small enough so she could blossom, but not so big that she could get lost. “From the moment I walked onto the Saint Joe’s campus, I felt good about it. People were wonderful.”

What tipped the scales was financial aid. “My father thought he had saved enough, but it wasn’t the case. Saint Joseph’s offered me financial aid…and that was really important."

Four years later, she was on to her next challenge. Fresh out of college, MacDonald went to work at Casco Northern Bank in South Paris: the first female assistant branch manager.  “It was hard at first. I was young, female, and from away. Eventually, I became part of the community.”

She thrived in the banking field, despite the rapid flux that characterized the industry in the eighties. From Casco Northern to Citibank to People’s Heritage (now TD Bank), she has had a long career helping financial organizations manage change.

MacDonald took a two-year break from banking to work in the corporate community service department at Central Maine Community College. Then, in 2010, Mechanics Savings Bank came knocking. Today, she’s a key member of the project management team working to align Mechanics Savings and Biddeford Savings under a new mutual holding company. As vice president of operations & projects, MacDonald is helping to drive the big changes necessary for success in the competitive banking landscape.

Since graduating in 1981, Sandy MacDonald has given back to Saint Joseph’s every year.

“I couldn’t have gone to college if the scholarship money hadn’t been there,” she says. “So when I give to the College, I designate that it’s for academic scholarships. I feel it’s important to pay it forward. Every penny helps.”

Generosity is a family commitment. MacDonald and her husband have set up a scholarship fund at Gray-New Gloucester High School in honor of their older son, Kevin, who died in 2000. Another scholarship at the Gray-New Gloucester Middle School supports summer camperships.

MacDonald is philosophical about the way Saint Joseph’s and its values have influenced her career and life: “The critical thinking skills you are developing in college continue to mold you later in life. At Saint Joseph’s, I learned to appreciate people, community, and different perspectives. It’s that human side––having the comfort to be able to talk to your professors and classmates, and be who you are.”