Photo by Lee Pellegrini

Lynch School of Education Associate Dean for Finance, Research, and Administration Mary Ellen Fulton’s bond with Boston College extends far and wide, including two tours of duty as an employee. Now she has another, as this year’s winner of the University’s Community Service Award.

The award, presented by the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, recognizes a BC employee whose actions exemplify the Jesuit spirit of community service and involvement. Fulton received her honor from University President William P. Leahy, S.J., at a May 30 reception.

Fulton’s record of service is marked by “dedication and steadfast advocacy” for quality education from the elementary to college level, according to the award citation, citing her work with two Boston-area Catholic schools, Saint Joseph’s Preparatory Academy, and Saint Columbkille Partnership School, and the Natick Education Foundation, a nonprofit in her home community.  

“When I look at the people who have won the Community Service Award, I’m truly humbled by the honor,” said Fulton in a recent interview. “I feel blessed to be here: Working at BC, I believe, offers the opportunity to give back –something that is very rewarding.”

Fulton holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from BC, but her ties with the University are multigenerational: Her father and two children also are alumni. It was her father’s experience at BC that helped inspire Fulton’s own academic and formational journey.

“After BC, Dad went into social work,” she explained. “He set the example of ‘men and women for others.’ The idea of giving back is something we grew up with.”

After graduating from BC in 1975, Fulton stayed on for eight years to work under then-Vice President of Student Affairs Kevin Duffy before leaving to start her own family. But Fulton always had the desire to return, even after she took a job in the private sector.

“I got a sense that working for the ‘bottom line’ was simply not as rewarding as working for an institution with a mission like BC’s,” she said.

Rejoining BC in 1996 as assistant director of the BC Neighborhood Center, Fulton joined the Lynch School administration a year later.

Her professional skills in finance and administration, along with her admiration for Jesuit, Catholic education, proved useful when she was asked to serve as the inaugural trustees chair for Saint Joseph’s, which was founded in 2012 through the merger of Mount Saint Joseph Academy and Trinity Catholic High School. BC is one of the school’s strategic partners.

Fulton drew praise for her efforts in assisting the school with teacher training resources, board recruitment, and fundraising activities.

“The mission of St. Joseph’s – tradition, integrity and excellence – resonated with the core values I’d known through working at BC,” said Fulton. “It’s wonderful to see the two schools come together instead of having to close. Saint Joseph’s is such a great school, and some 40 percent of its students are from a Boston zip code. This was a true labor of love for all of us on the board, and I have been honored to be part of it.”

Since stepping down as chair in 2015, Fulton has continued to be an active board member, chairing the enrollment and advancement committees. The award citation praised Fulton for “her leadership skills, drive and positive attitude” in guiding Saint Joseph’s through its transition to “a high-quality” institution serving some 400 diverse students “on their journey to college and in life.”

Fulton also has been involved in a joint oversight committee for Saint Joseph’s and the Saint Columbkille Partnership School. The latter school, which serves pre-K through eighth-grade children, is operated jointly by BC, the Archdiocese of Boston, and Saint Columbkille.

“The idea behind the committee is to see in what ways Saint Joseph’s and Saint Columbkille can partner together,” she said. “It’s all part of Fr. Leahy’s vision to ensure high-quality Catholic education, from pre-K all the way to college, is available for families in the Brighton area. As an administrator in the Lynch School, I’m especially pleased to see the role that our faculty and students play in these partnerships.”  

Fulton’s interest in education has been equally strong on the home front, through her longtime association with the Natick Education Foundation, which helps to support Natick Public Schools. Over a period of nearly four decades, she has served on the foundation’s board of directors and its finance and grants committees, and continues to volunteer. 

“I got involved with the foundation when my children were young – like any parent, you want to help your kids have a positive experience in school,” she said. “But education isn’t just about your family, it’s about your community. I’m just glad I’ve been able to contribute in whatever way I can to making things better.”

-Sean Smith / University Communications