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Devotion to service, PC mission defined Mary Politelli

Mary R. Politelli, administrative assistant in the Providence College School of Business, will be remembered for the selfless, efficient manner in which she served students, faculty, and the College.


Mary R. Politelli was much more than the administrative assistant in the Providence College School of Business (PCSB).

To students and faculty, she was a revered adviser, confidante, and friend. There was no question, no task, no issue too challenging for her. She personified “service with a smile” and didn’t seek credit.

“Mary loved helping people, and she loved her work at PC,” said longtime friend Carol A. Hartley, C.P.A., assistant professor of accountancy. “She was not just very competent, she was one of the kindest people I have ever met.”

Mrs. Politelli lost a lengthy battle with an illness and died at home in West Warwick, R.I., on July 12. She was the wife of Wayne A. Politelli ’88G and the mother of Anthony J. Politelli ’07 & ’09G and Daniel J. Politelli. She also is survived by two brothers and two sisters. Her Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on July 17 in St. Joseph Church, West Warwick.

Mrs. Politelli served the College for more than 20 years, primarily in its business departments. which formalized into the School of Business in 2007. In 2013, she was named a recipient of the Torchbearer Award, presented to a staff member who lives out the College’s mission; who makes extraordinary contributions to her or his department, office, or program and the College; and who works collaboratively across campus operations to advance PC’s goals.

As Torchbearer nominees referenced, Mrs. Politelli was considered the “backbone” and the “go to” person of the business school. The internationally accredited school comprises the undergraduate programs of accountancy, finance, management, and marketing, and the graduate-level MBA Program. The PCSB has 53 full-time faculty members and serves more than 650 students.

As administrative assistant in the school’s Dean’s Office, Mrs. Politelli coordinated the undergraduate programs. She ran the pre-registration and registration for all the business majors. She interacted directly with students, deans, and faculty, particularly department chairs, and while not formally accorded the title, served as a trusted adviser on courses, scheduling, and myriad other PCSB operations. She knew many students by their name.

“Mary was an incredible adviser. She played a role far beyond her formal duties,” said Dr. Sylvia Maxfield, PCSB dean. “A student would come to her and say, for instance, ‘I didn’t get into Accounting 203.’ Mary would say, “Here’s what you do .…”

Calm but firm, Mrs. Politelli was respectful and unflappable in her direction “and wanted to solve everyone’s problem,” added Maxfield.

A professional and pleasant persona

Maxfield and Hartley each cited Mrs. Politelli’s attention to detail and her “customer first” attitude, noting she served as the executive assistant to a bank president before coming to the College. Her approach was professional and personable, and that demeanor was reflected daily at PC.

“Mary was always focused on the mission and helping others,” said Hartley. “She was very conscientious. She kept track of students’ financial issues so they could get into classes. She anticipated things. She would send emails to students abroad. And, she reminded (department) chairs about deadlines and all sorts of issues.”

“Mary just loved her work,” continued Hartley. “Working kept her living longer. She knew she could make a difference being here and helping students and faculty.”

Her concerned, helpful nature was reassuring and soothing, said students who knew her. Vincent A. Travelyn ’13 & ’14G, an accountancy major and an MBA Program graduate, said he looked forward to visiting the dean’s office because Mrs. Politelli and Lisa M. Mildner, senior office assistant for business administration, were so welcoming.

“They were so funny together,” said Travelyn, who will be starting a position with PricewaterhouseCoopers this fall. “I’ll never forget how nice the situation was. Half the time you’d forget what you went in there for because you looked forward to seeing them.”

He added that Mrs. Politelli would ask him about his well-being and “was kind of like a mom” to many students.

“Mary was that type of person who would stop whatever she was doing to ask how you were doing,” said Griffin B. Young ’15 (East Sandwich, Mass.), a management major who worked closely with Mrs. Politelli as a work-study student in the dean’s office. She would inquire about his course work, the clubs he was involved in, and friends who were majors in the school, he added.

“Her selfless nature is what made her so special,” said Young. “She had a unique disposition about her that made any student, especially the ones who were panicking about something, at ease, and she handled every situation with swiftness and professionalism. She would do anything for the students.”

Emphasizing that she was “always there for me,” Young said he was most inspired by Mrs. Politelli’s work ethic and that he will take her example into his senior year and throughout his life.

Hartley, who met Mrs. Politelli 35 years ago when their boyfriends — now husbands — played in the same softball league, said her friend was fun-loving and made an impression on others. Together, and with their husbands, they shared dinners and went to movies, Boston Red Sox games, and the beach. When lottery jackpots skyrocketed, she bought tickets for people in the office, and she made quilts for faculty members’ newborns.

Students who graduated from the PCSB often kept in touch with Mrs. Politelli, stopping in for visits or sending messages and pictures via email and other correspondence, said Hartley.

In every sense and in her own, quiet way, Mrs. Politelli was a leader, said Maxfield.

“She was an inspiring example of what it means to serve students and faculty,” she said.

—Charles C. Joyce

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