Albany Holy Names Leader Mary Anne Vigilante Retires

Mary Anne Vigliante believes in providence.

This led her to take the Holy Names Academy entrance exam the summer before she entered ninth grade in public school. She won a scholarship and graduated with the class of 1964.

It was also providence, says Vigliante, that led her to apply for a teaching position at her alma mater, even though she was about to accept an offer elsewhere.

And it was providence that pushed her, 52 years later, to retire in 2022 as headmistress of the school. Just because she has a long list of things doesn’t mean she wants to do – she doesn’t. Vigliante’s life revolved around the girls of Holy Names, some 2,700 of whom graduated from the school during his tenure. She just felt it was time.

Colleagues, students and parents describe Vigliante’s remarkable career as one of constant and loving guidance based on intellectual curiosity. The school was established in Albany by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1884. The order was founded in Quebec by Blessed Marie Rose Durocher in 1843 with the goal of expanding the education of children. The academy was first housed at 628 Madison Ave., where Vigliante was a student, then expanded to its campus on New Scotland Avenue in the late 1950s.

Vigliante’s parents were the children of Italian immigrants. She was the third of four daughters. Her two older sisters attended public schools in Albany, but a priest at St. James’s Church on Delaware Avenue, where Vigliante received religious instruction, encouraged her to take the college entrance exam. Holy Names. The class of 1964 had 100 students and the following year 120 girls graduated from the academy – a high point.

Enrollment over the years has fluctuated, but has largely declined. At one time, sacred names included pre-kindergarten through 12th grade; he is now a sixth year in high school. There were 197 students enrolled in grades 6 through 12 in the 2021-22 school year. Tuition is $19,500 for grades 9-12; $16,800 for seven and eight years and $15,700 for the sixth year.

Vigliante held several positions between her first year as an English teacher and 2014, when she was appointed as the school’s principal. She didn’t plan to be a teacher, but after graduating from the College of Saint Rose, she got a full scholarship to the University of Chicago, where she planned to earn a master’s and doctoral degree. in English literature. After a year of study, she became restless and impatient.

“I had no professional project. I loved learning and studying,” said Vigliante. “You get to a point where you want to take action, not just learn but use what you’ve learned to make the world a better place.”

She returned to Albany. Jane Ladouceur, now an English teacher at Holy Names, was one of Vigliante’s students.

“It was clear she loved her subject matter,” Ladouceur said. “She had a positive attitude towards the students, so everyone felt smart. She was an intellectual who made everyone feel included and uplifted.

As a leader, Ladouceur said Vigliante brought strategic thinking to the work and clearly understood “every inch of the institution.” Her car was the first of the lot in the morning, and even when she was promoted, she did jobs that could have been relegated to someone else, Ladouceur said. Plus, Vigliante, who is less than five feet tall (“but I never felt small,” she says) was always dressed in style.

Denyse Mackey is one of the parents who chose Holy Names for her children, even though she describes the tuition fees as exaggerated. When her daughters, Madison and Makayla, were small, Holy Names offered full-day kindergarten; their local public school did not.

Mackey said she had no plans to keep them there, but while the girls were in preschool, her husband, Warren Mackey, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Knowing that upheaval might await them, the Mackeys opted to stay at Holy Names.

“If anything happened, I wanted my kids to be in a loving, faith-based environment,” Mackey said.

When the girls were in high school, the worst happened. Warren Mackey was placed on life support in 2021 and later died. Madison, distraught one day in class, went to the bathroom crying. Vigliante heard her and spent an hour with her. She called Denyse, their therapist and Makayla. Mackey was deeply touched by the care.

“And after, when Madison was ready to go back to class, Ms. Vigliante is so proper, she wrote her a note on HN stationery that Madison could give to the teacher,” Mackey said.

Beyond their personal circumstances, Mackey is proud of the experience her daughters have had and the education they have received. Madison graduated last month and will attend Villanova University in the fall. Makayla is entering her final year at Holy Names. Mackey wants to make an education at Holy Names possible for other black families. She founded the Warren and Denyse Mackey Foundation in part to help black girls attend Holy Names. About 10 black girls are enrolled in the school now, Mackey said.

Mary Jordan, who graduated this year, said Vigliante greeted students each morning as they walked through the hall past a statue of Eulalie Durocher rendered in copper pipes.

“You can’t underestimate her influence, she was not a remote administrator,” Jordan said. “Even though our society has changed and religion is not as influential, it has kept the spirit at the center.”

She’s also fun, Jordan said. A lifelong music lover, Vigliante has a good singing voice, Jordan said. Jordan and his friends taught Vigliante how to play spike ball, and at the annual song contests at Thanksgiving and Christmas, Vigliante enthusiastically joined in.

The girls, says Vigliante, haven’t changed all that much between her debut at Holy Names and now. They have a “phenomenal vitality” and a capacity for pleasure and development at the same time. The drama that once played out in past notes is now happening on text messages, but the drama is the same, Vigliante said. Social media has added challenges because girls face more temptations that could lead them away from their path.

Most troubling, Vigliante said, is the anxiety she sees among students.

“It’s the most angsty generation I’ve seen,” she said. “It existed before COVID and COVID exacerbated it.”

Most promising is the girls’ passion to do something in the world. Single-sex education is especially beneficial for girls, Vigliante said, because it eliminates distractions in the classroom for girls wondering what boys think of them. It also gives teachers the opportunity to tackle the decline in confidence they see in girls between grades six and seven. There are studies that talk about this, but Vigliante cites anecdotal evidence from a former Holy Names student – ​​the women who say they were the only girls to raise their hands in college physics class.

“They have a sense of urgency, not just for the future, but for the here and now. They take on (often service-based) projects that I never thought I would take on at their age and they see them through from planning to implementation to conclusion,” Vigliante said. “Not many people want to hang out with teenagers, period. Here, we love them.

Vigliante never married and has no children. She has some vague ideas about what she will do in retirement. Her nieces and nephews have ideas for her, but a “non-existent bucket list”.

“I always want to do things that have impact and purpose,” she said. “You don’t want to suddenly stop making your corner of the world a better place. Something will emerge. Providence will provide.

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