Alumni Spotlight Stories

Jerry Polito '85 Giving Back to his Alma Mater


Jerry Polito ’83 appreciates the outstanding education he received at Mercy, which is why he has established a bequest in a trust to support future Mavs.

Already a loyal annual contributor, Polito added a planned gift to his legacy in appreciation for the help he received while earning his degrees in business administration and management. “Mercy worked with me in getting me through my degree, and I feel I owe them something for that,” he says.

While working his way through at Mercy, Polito was working in retail.  "A Saturday employee in the personnel department kept asking me questions about my goals.  We often talked about our experiences and career goals.  Turns out, she had been a full-time teacher and became a principal at what would become the high school known as Bronx Leadership Academy."  She saw Polito’s potential and wanted to hire him at her school. Polito had already been working with a program to help qualify him to teach in high-need inner city schools. Fate may have played a role in him becoming a high school mathematics teacher, admits the Mount Vernon native, but this was a calling that found him. 

Serving in the teaching profession for 16 years, Polito said he found his strength in mathematics was particularly useful to his many students who struggled with the subject. “I just always liked math and algebra as a kid, and I wanted students in my classes to think of it that way as well,” said Polito. 

Fresh from his degree at Mercy, Polito drew inspiration from dedicated instructors who took the time to get to know him. “As a transfer student who was working full-time all the way through, that attention mattered. The professors were incredibly helpful and just nice to talk to on a personal level,” said Polito. 
He stresses that he internalized that and carried it with him into his own career. “Teaching is tough,” he explains. “You have to be on top of your work and on top of your students’ progress.”  Despite its obvious challenges he feels the impact of teaching has its own rewards.

Jerry’s draw to Mercy was spurred by the college’s reputation for providing a quality education, he says. He also appreciated the flexibility in scheduling and how he was able to continue to work full-time while attending classes.

Although his busy schedule left little time for campus activities, the time Jerry spent at Mercy and the education he received have had an enduring and beneficial impact on his life. After a rewarding career in both education and business, the retired alumnus wants to make sure tomorrow’s students enjoy the same life-changing opportunities.

Polito considers himself still a lifelong learner and in retirement is taking up some exciting new hobbies. He has recently taken up Taekwondo and for several years he has been taking dance lessons – even entering competitive ballroom dancing circuit.

“I hope the planned gift helps future young people succeed at Mercy,” he says.