Maxwell alumna Phaedra Stewart ’91 finds it difficult to look at the world without seeing opportunities to connect with people, raise their spirits and empower them to make their lives better. A self-described serial entrepreneur (some might say a serial…
Mary Jane Nathan, Syracuse University Special Events director, to retire July 15
Mary Jane Nathan, Syracuse University Special Events director, to retire July 15April 29, 2008Roxanna Carpenterrocarpen@syr.edu
When this year’s seniors graduate from Syracuse University, Mary Jane Nathan, executive director of the Office of Special Events, will have guided 15 SU Commencements, from planning through completion. Following this year’s 154th Commencement on May 11, Nathan will retire, effective July 15, after nearly 22 years of service with the University.
The successor to Nathan in the position of executive director of Special Events is Susan Germain, Nathan’s long-time assistant. Germain has worked with SU in varied capacities for more than 18 years, most recently as assistant director of Special Events. She served as director of the University’s development services from 1978-1983 before taking a position with the Crouse Irving Memorial Foundation and returned to SU, to the Office of Special Events in 1996. Germain, who holds a bachelor’s degree in management data systems and marketing management from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, has been actively involved in the University’s United Way campaigns throughout her SU career.
“Mary Jane has contributed much to SU during her tenure,” says Lil Breul O’Rourke, SU vice president and chief development officer. “Her management of Commencement Weekend for the past 14 years has resulted in a consistently outstanding ceremonial event of which SU can be proud.” Commencement is certainly one of the more complex events planned by Nathan and her staff, Josie Torrillo and Germain. During Nathan’s time in special events, more than 60,000 degree candidates have gained the status of alumni.
Of the year-long planning effort, Nathan says, “It’s an enormous undertaking.” Her office coordinates with individuals and departments across campus to set schedules, secure venues for convocations and other related events, update printed materials and web sites, create scripts and manage a multitude of details and logistics. “We look at Commencement as a gift to our students and their families,” says Nathan. “One of the joys of the job has been working with wonderful colleagues, people who are very giving of their time and expertise.”
Events large and small that come through the Office of Special Events call for a wide variety of collaboration and coordination, tailored to a department’s or division’s needs and staff. Nathan typically consults with academic deans, development staff and other University personnel regarding their major events and protocol. Nathan and her staff have managed installations, retirements, anniversaries, dedications and the regular University annual events since 1994, when she took over as director of the Office of Special Events. “I love planning things like these, especially on an institutional level,” says Nathan.
The most unprecedented installation celebration for Nathan, by far, was the inauguration of Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor in November 2004, for which the Office of Special Events team received an Exemplary Achievement Award — Nathan’s second. Nathan co-chaired the steering committee with the Rev. Thomas V. Wolfe, dean of Hendricks Chapel, coordinating both the installation event and the year-long inaugural activities. Nathan and Wolfe worked with every school, college and department across campus, as well as Central New York community members, delegates from other universities and many volunteers. Wolfe says, “I have enjoyed working with Mary Jane on numerous occasions. But I was never so impressed as when we worked together on the inaugural year activities. Her eye for detail and her deep knowledge of the people and practices of the university was an invaluable resource. Mary Jane is a beloved colleague and one whose judgment I depend on and deeply respect. I am grateful for what I have learned from her.”
Active in the community as well, Nathan has served on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood, has worked with United Way for many years and has been a member and occasional host of Thursday Morning Roundtable (TMR). A member of the original planning committee for Mayfest, she has also served on many other University committees. “Her enthusiasm, attention to detail and good humor will be missed,” says O’Rourke.
Nathan, who received a bachelor’s degree from The College of Arts and Sciences at SU in 1965 and a master’s degree in adult education from the University in 1989, began her career at SU in 1986 as a conference facilitator in the Business and Professional Training Center at University College (UC). Nathan at first assisted three program administrators at UC and Levi “Lee” Smith, UC assistant dean and founder of TMR, before becoming senior program administrator. She then was named director in the Office of Special Events in 1994. She has served as executive director of special events and alumni programs and, for a time, as interim executive director of the Office of Alumni Relations.