Mary Dernovek, SNJM
The youngest of four children, Mary was born in Portland, Oregon and raised on an 80-acre farm outside of Estacada. She attended Estacada public schools through high school. With the strong encouragement of her oldest sister, Dolores, she started college majoring in Physical Education at Marylhurst. She commuted from Beaverton, helping to take care of her sister’s growing family and getting to use her sister’s red Covair! Toward the end of her freshman year, she felt a calling to become a Sister of the Holy Names and made the decision to enter. Her only regret was that it meant leaving the Covair behind.
After entering she continued her studies in PE, which required Sister Cecilia Ranger, novitiate director, to petition the Mother General in Montreal to allow a special exemption for Mary to “change from her postulant attire into a white blouse, blue culottes and red tennis shoes.” The next year she changed her major and packed away her culottes! Completing a B.A. in Elementary Education, she taught at St. Ignatius and the Cathedral in Portland and O’Hara in Eugene.
Mary began a Master’s in Education, but when asked about a major, she wasn’t sure. As it happened, her advisor was a grant writer and described this to her. She realized that if she was trained in that process, she could help Catholic schools embark on ways to subsidize tuition costs and raise funds for capital improvements.
When she completed her M.Ed. with a minor in business, she was invited by Sister Mary Burke at Sacred Heart High School, Salem, and Sister Joan Hansen, St. Mary’s Academy, Portland, to work part time for their schools, working in Portland for a few days and then going to Salem.
At this same time, a group of development directors in Salem were initiating a professional organization to provide education and support for those working in the field. This resulted in the WVDO (Willamette Valley Development Officers) and Mary was asked to help. With a trusty IBM Selectric typewriter she prepared the first membership roster, assisted with program planning and eventually served as WVDO president. In this capacity, Mary realized that many non-profits could not afford consultant services or had limited options for workshops and training. Mary formed Solutions for Non-Profits to respond to this need. Through Solutions she organized and sponsored workshops on many aspects of fund development.
She continued to work both with individual non-profit clients as well as with Solutions’ educational programs. She genuinely enjoyed meeting new fund development professionals as well as traveling the West Coast, and eventually Canada, to present workshops and give speeches on aspects of raising funds for non-profits.
When the National Catholic Education Association established the Leave a Legacy program highlighting the importance of having a valid, current will as well as the rewards of making a bequest to non-profit organization, Mary again traveled across the Northwest to introduce the program to numerous non-profits.
Over the years Mary has assisted a long list of non-profits. Several have been quite close to her heart, including St. Ignatius School Foundation, Neighborhood Health Clinics, Catholic Charities, Salem Catholic Schools, The Grotto, Jesuit Volunteer Corp, Loaves & Fishes, St. Mary’s Academy, Paulist Center, Oregon Food Bank, Gladstone Senior Center Foundation and Start Making A Reader Today (SMART).
In 2000, the Willamette Valley Development Officers awarded Mary its highest honor, The Barbara Stallcup Miller Professional Achievement Award.
Mary feels especially grateful as she celebrates 50 years as a Holy Names Sister. She has been richly blessed for all the opportunities she has been given and the encouragement and support of her Sisters, friends, family and the organizations she has helped.