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MCCC Alum Mary Jo Butera Realizes Lifelong Dream
To Guide Students on the Road to Success


West Windsor, N.J. – According to Mercer alum Mary Jo Butera ’72 (A.A., Humanities and Social Science), finding the tools and mentors that enabled her to get a good education has inspired her to help others do the same.

Currently working as a guidance counselor in the Hamilton School District, Butera often reflects on how her own mentors made her current career possible.

With neither of her parents having attended college, Butera didn’t consider furthering her education after graduating from Trenton High School. Instead, she took a secretarial position, which she held for more than three years before considering next steps in her education.

MCCC Alum Mary Jo Butera '72

“I didn’t have the college prep courses I needed to get into a four-year school,” explained Butera, which led her to enroll in two summer courses at Mercer’s Trenton campus.  After earning A’s in both, she decided it was time to make school a priority.  “I got my confidence and then I left my job and came to Mercer full time,” she said, noting that once she made the decision, learning came fairly easily to her.

While the convenience of MCCC’s Trenton location was what first drove Butera to enroll at Mercer, she quickly found that her education surpassed her expectations.  “I used whatever resources the college made available to me,” she said, recalling how she was able to obtain a flexible part-time job in the admissions office, which enabled her to work while going to school.  “They were so helpful and understanding,” she said.

Butera also recalled the support and guidance of her professors, who helped her continue to grow academically.  “My professors were really wonderful,” she said, recalling Spanish Professor Stephen Richman (professor emeritus), who hired her to make tape recordings for the Spanish lab.  “The experience was really good for me,” she said.

She also credits her shorthand teacher, Jeanette Purdy (professor emeritus), for providing moral support and guidance.  “She really helped me and encouraged me,” Butera said.

Graduating from Mercer with honors, Butera earned a scholarship to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).  “The coursework at Mercer was just as challenging as TCNJ,” Butera said.  “I felt well prepared when I transferred.”

Initially majoring in Business, Butera quickly realized she was more inclined towards English and earned her bachelor’s degree in English Education in 1974, with a minor in psychology.  While at TCNJ she was a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education.

Immediately after graduation Butera was offered a job as an English teacher at Allentown High School, where she worked for nine years.  Eventually though, her powerful memories of the supportive staff at Mercer pulled her in a different direction in the education field.  She decided she too wanted to guide and mentor students through their own educational process. 

She left her teaching job to work at Burlington County Community College as an Educational Opportunity Fund counselor, where she met with students to help them enroll in classes and talk through their personal issues.  She always emphasized that they keep up their grades so they could maintain their college scholarships.

Guiding students one-on-one was the magic for Butera and she decided her true calling was to be a guidance counselor.  “I always had that inclination,” she said.  “I wanted to help others like me find role models who would inspire them to get a good education.” 

In 1978, Butera went back to TCNJ, earning her master’s degree in Guidance in 1982.  She then worked as a guidance counselor at Hightstown High School and then at West Windsor Middle School.  “It was a great experience; I loved my job,” Butera said.

Finally, she joined the guidance staff at Hamilton High West, where she has worked for the last 20 years. Butera notes that she has also earned her certification to work as a high school principal, but has never applied for the position because she so thoroughly enjoys her job. 

“I enjoy getting up in the morning and going to work.  You get to help students build their lives and their future,” she said.  “If you’re able to touch someone and help influence their future, there’s nothing that can compare to that.”

Butera has continued to emphasize the importance of education – not only to her students, but also within her family.  Her two sons, James and Adam, have graduated from Harvard University and University of Massachusetts, respectively.  Her nephew, Ben Rosati, just graduated from Mercer with A.S. degrees in Biology and Chemistry in May 2012, and is continuing his education at Rider University in the fall.

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