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A ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience’

After helping give girls in Africa a chance for education, Moore is back at Boston College

Joy Haywood Moore ’81, former deputy head for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, at last week’s Lynch School of Education symposium: “BC took care of me. So in returning to work here there is a sense of giving back and making those opportunities available to other students who are attending and will attend BC.” (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

By Ed Hayward | Chronicle Staff

Published: Nov. 17, 2011

Joy Haywood Moore is home, in more ways than one.

Just a few days into her new job as director of stewardship and donor relations in the University’s Development Office, Moore last week took the podium to deliver the keynote speech at the annual symposium of the Lynch School of Education, from which she graduated in 1981.

The topic was one at the heart of a career spent promoting and advancing education, particularly for young girls: the story of the past four years Moore spent in South Africa as interim and later as deputy head of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, launched by the famed television personality and executive in January 2007.

“The girls we admit to the school come from very impoverished – or as one girl once described it ‘very uneasy’ – backgrounds,” Moore said in an interview prior to her talk, which took place in the Yawkey Center’s Murray Room. “To be able to build up their self-esteem, their confidence, to instill a vision that they could become the leaders of the future South Africa is a huge task. To help them aspire to those goals is what sets the academy apart.”

Moore arrived in Henley-on-Kip, South Africa, expecting to serve a six-month stint as an interim leader who would stabilize the school following allegations a staff member had abused students. Six months turned into four years as Moore and the leadership team righted the academy, which serves nearly 400 girls in grades 7-12.

“I think I just got swept away and I knew after six months it just seemed like it was what I was supposed to be doing,” said Moore, who had previously served as the interim head of school at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles and Dana Hall School in Wellesley. “It was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

After four years away from her family – husband Robert, son Christopher, 22, and daughter Amanda, 19 – Moore finally came home.

“I just knew it was time,” said Moore, who grew up in Newton.

Her own experiences as a student at Dana Hall have made Moore a passionate advocate for girls’ education; she has served as a trustee for the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools.

“I’m a product of girls’ education,” she said. “It shaped me into the person I am today, gave me self-confidence, self-esteem, a willingness to take risks smartly. As I look back, I see that my experiences at Dana Hall were critical to my life and career and coming to BC as an undergraduate gave me further opportunities to grow as a person.”

Moore, who worked in advancement at BC shortly after graduating and followed that with positions at the University of San Francisco and University of California at Berkeley, said she’s thrilled to return to her alma mater.

“The experience I had in South Africa was so unique it would be hard to re-create, so I’ve put that in a treasure box on the mantle and decided to re-create myself a bit. I knew I wanted to make a difference in an organization where I believed in the mission and there’s a strong foundation of doing for others,” said Moore, who received an honorary degree from BC in 2010.

“When I was a student at BC, I received financial aid. BC took care of me,” Moore said. “So in returning to work here there is a sense of giving back and making those opportunities available to other students who are attending and will attend BC.”