WILMINGTON — Of all the new principals in the Diocese of Wilmington this year or probably most years, few are as familiar with their school as Mary McClory. The new leader at Padua Academy has served as a teacher, department chair, vice principal and now principal at the all-girls institution for going on 23 years.
But even though McClory didn’t have to learn all the details about Padua, that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t experienced a few things that she did not encounter in her previous positions. For example, she is more involved with advancement and communications than she had been as vice principal.
“I was very much involved in the academic program,” she said recently from her new office, which is right next to the old one.
McClory’s experience at Padua began as a substitute science teacher for half a year. She went to work at the University of Delaware for a few years before a full-time spot opened up.
“I would say I really enjoyed my experience when I taught here. That was the first time that I’d taught at a high school level. I had at the college level before that. I just really liked the high school experience. I think I was just so impressed when I walked in the building, just to hear the whole story about how Padua came into being,” she said.
She was inspired by the tales of volunteer labor that built the current structure, and she found a “very collegiate” faculty that supported one another. It was, she continued, a very good fit.
The native of Lawrence, Mass., attended an all-girls Catholic high school before matriculating at Salem State College. From there, McClory went to work researching lithium batteries before pursuing graduate studies in chemistry at the University of Rhode Island. Her experience teaching labs at Rhode Island sparked an interest in higher education, and she went to teach at Connecticut College.
She said there is something unique about a single-gender education.
“Last week, we had four women executives from TD Bank who were visiting. The first thing they mentioned was that all four of them were the product of Catholic education, and three out of the four had attended an all-girls school,” she said.
McClory was part of the foundation that developed the Padua Academy as it exists today. She is pleased with several of the initiatives that have flourished, such as the engineering program, and the cyber-security and technology curricula.
“I know that these weren’t something that you plan on day one and then they happen on day two. They take planning and work and improvements over the last five to six years. I’m happy to be in a position to embrace them and help them grow,” she said.
One of the things she is trying to accomplish is having various organizations develop themes that go along with those of the diocese. So far, McClory said, that has been achieved by campus ministry, student council leadership, and the advocacy for success program.
“I really like how the collaboration I wanted is something that I’ve seen happening, which I’m really happy about,” she said.
McClory came to Delaware when her husband, whom she met in graduate school, took a job with Dupont. They have four adult sons and multiple grand-pets. When she’s not in the office at Padua, she likes to read, cook, take walks, and visit relatives in Massachusetts.
She lives in Pike Creek and has been a member of Resurrection Parish since coming to Delaware.