Haverhill and Lawrence, MA — Thanks to a lifetime of effort by Mary DiGiovanni, a longtime resident of Reading, MA, who passed away in October, people with disabilities in the Merrimack Valley and beyond continue to receive a higher standard of care.
A nurse with a master’s in community mental health, DiGiovanni founded the Human Service Program at Northern Essex Community College and served as its coordinator for three decades, until her retirement in 2001.
The college now offers an associate degree in human services as well as certificates in alcohol/drug abuse counseling, children’s behavioral health specialist, community support human services practitioner, direct support, and peer recovery specialist, and all can be traced directly to DiGiovanni, and her passion for advocating for individuals who can’t advocate for themselves, said Dr. Paul Bevilacqua, who was her colleague and then, as vice president of academic affairs, her supervisor for many years.
“Where she found the time to do all the things she did, I have no idea,” he said. “She was continuous motion. Students loved her because they knew she cared deeply.”
Human service professionals work in a range of settings with seniors, adults, adolescents, and children with substance abuse issues, mental illness, or developmental and/or emotional disabilities.
“Mary was connected with everyone in the Merrimack Valley in the human service field,” said Bevilacqua. “She had either taught them or partnered with them to place students in practicums or jobs.”
DiGiovanni also provided leadership for human services at the national level, serving on the Council for Standards in Human Service Education from 1992 to 2002. In 2009, she researched and wrote a national study creating recognition for the human service profession and developing skills standards for those working in the field.
Well aware of her dedication to the human services profession, DiGiovanni’s family has created an endowed scholarship in their mother’s name, which will be given to a human service student each year.
In creating the scholarship, her son Mark DiGiovanni wrote “We are creating this scholarship in memory of our mother and her dedication to the human services profession. Her passion in life was teaching and advocating for people with disabilities. She found her calling while at NECC in educating students on caring for others. We hope this scholarship will help others to follow in her footsteps.”
After retiring from the college, DiGiovanni continued her work, spearheading grants designed to improve the skills and educational levels of those working with people with disabilities.
She was named Professor Emerita of Human Services soon after her retirement, and, in 2013, she received the Making a Difference Award in conjunction with the college’s 50th anniversary.
Permanently endowed scholarships, with naming opportunities and criteria restrictions, can be created with a minimum commitment of $25,000, according to Allison Dolan-Wilson, vice president of institutional advancement.
“This is a wonderful way to carry on Mary’s legacy,” said Dolan-Wilson. “Our students will benefit for many years to come.”
Donations can be made via check or online (www.necc.mass.edu/giving) to The NECC Foundation, 100 Elliott St., Haverhill, MA 01830. Please write (The Mary DiGiovanni Human Services Scholarship) on the memo line or in the comments for online giving.
To learn more, contact Dolan-Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978 556-3624.
Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth. Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley. For more information, visit the website at www.necc.mass.edu or call 978-556-3700.