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Recently promoted to associate dean, Foy is regarded as a walking bible of information about the School of Medicine, its policies and people.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Foy: Registrar Extraordinaire


The caps and gowns had to be ordered, 185 diplomas signed and sealed, the Meyerhoff Auditorium reserved, the program edited .... These were just a few details that Registrar Mary Foy tended to during the recent season of graduation. But for Foy, recently promoted to associate dean, all the rituals that make up Convocation come as naturally as the flowers blooming in her garden in June.

As registrar, Foy takes care of all the credentials, grades and mountains of paperwork associated with the School of Medicine throughout the year. And graduation marks an end point of one phase of paperwork and the starting point of more-an onslaught of verifying credentials and assembling transcripts. So much paper goes in and out of her office that her name is probably one best known to students, and Foy appears to remember them all.

"It's kind of fun to see careers develop," she notes on a recent spring day. She is direct and pleasant, ruling over her domain with crisp efficiency in her neat blue suit with a flowery blouse. "Students come back to this office to have forms signed, grades verified. Sometimes when they write for transcripts, I'll enclose a note with their files. Usually, they'll respond, 'I can't believe you are still there,'" she says with a chuckle, confident of her place in this realm of degrees and good standing.

Through 40 years, Foy has worked for six deans and seen thousands of students graduate. Voluminous records overflow at her temporary quarters in a small mobile office tucked away on Turner Plaza. There are catalogs dating back to the first one in 1893, plastic black notebooks full of statistics about each class, stacks of paper from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

But her colleagues say the most valuable resource is Foy herself, regarded as a walking bible of information about the School of Medicine, its policies and people. She is a member of every standing committee involved with faculty or trainees. As such, she deals with educational policy, the needs of Ph.D. candidates, requirements of various residency programs, and the composition and scope of myriad faculty committees.

Foy presides over an 18-member staff with a rare blend of warmth and efficiency. "On many occasions, I asked her about a student who graduated years ago, and within a very short time I received a complete report," says Richard Ross, the retired dean for whom Foy worked for 15 years. "Not only is she able to find the records, she knows the students and recognizes their faces. She is a meticulous file keeper and is the closest thing to an institutional memory we have."

With increasing admissions, keeping track grows a bit more complicated. When Foy began her career, only 75 students from the School of Medicine needed caps and gowns. This year, she counted 114 M.D.'s, 60 Ph.D.'s and 11 master's. Foy estimates that 57 percent of all graduates have come through on her watch.

Each spring, she must use a truck to haul diplomas, immaculately folded caps, hoods, gowns and other supplies to the Meyerhoff Hall. In all her years, Foy can recall only one major snafu. That was when the truck filled with diplomas detoured to drop off another load and did not arrive for the beginning of the ceremony. Foy was beside herself with worry. Would there be diplomas for the graduates by the time the speaker had concluded his address?

She quickly concocted an alternate plan. There was one diploma at the auditorium. Each student would shake hands with the dean and take the diploma. Then, during the photo op, it would be snatched from the student to be recycled.

But, just as the commencement speech concluded, the truck arrived, and plan B never was pressed into service. The diplomas were unloaded at the back door, placed on a table with wheels, and rolled onto the stage where they were handed out with only Foy and her staff knowing of the glitch. "You can imagine what my blood pressure was like," she recalls.

Foy was hired as assistant to the registrar in 1963 right after receiving her degree in business administration from Monmouth College in Long Branch, N.J. "I thought I'd end up in finance," says Foy. "This was then just a job, but this place pulls you in. Hopkins becomes like family after a while."

An expert on School of Medicine policies and regulations, Foy has seen trends come and go and come back again. "We changed from 'A plus,' 'A,' and all that, to a non-letter grading system-honors, high honors, etcetera. It probably has a 10-year life." Foy, however, understands the philosophy behind de-emphasizing grades. "It has to do with the perception that Hopkins is overly competitive. We attract students in the top tier. For them, the first 'C' is very stressful."

As a rule, under Mary Foy, you can count on business running smoothly, say her associates. Dean of Students Frank Herlong says he consults Foy daily on important school affairs. "Mary is an incredible asset to this institution. The School would shut down without her."

Mike Weisfeldt has known Foy since he was a medical student. Today he is chairman of the Department of Medicine, and he is still going to Foy "anytime I have a problem. When you don't do things right, she sympathizes and helps. As a faculty member, I signed up someone for a fellowship who didn't have a correct visa. It was a serious infringement of the rules, and it had happened six months before. Now that person was in the country. I was in deep trouble. In no time flat, Mary told me what to do-and never told anyone about it."

Foy says she is guided by advice given to her by another dean, the late Thomas Turner, who always emphasized that the role of the administration is to support the faculty and students. "We're kind of quiet, the grease on the axle, he used to say. We're here to keep the wheels of progress moving."

-Lavinia Edmunds

 

 

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