Alumni Spotlight Stories

Coinciding Milestones Guide Educator James Bartley '71 Back to Fond Mercy Memories

 

Looking back on his career as an educator in its many facets; as an elementary school teacher, school administrator, and later, as a community college instructor, James Bartley ’71 recalls Mercy College with fondness and gratitude. “It really was a springboard for my future,” said Bartley.

As the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Mercy approaches, the retired father of two and grandfather of four recalls the worries he faced leading up to his acceptance at Mercy. After two years at a community college, the time was upon him to decide his next steps. Growing up in a household of five children, anticipating the costs involved in pursuing a teaching career completing a four-year degree felt out of reach, until he found Mercy. “It was somewhat close to home, and it was just what I needed. Thankfully, I was eligible for a grant. Back then tuition was $3,000 and that was a whole lot of money.”

As one of its first male students, he quickly grasped that his presence was among some rather notable changes happening amongst his classmates, against a backdrop of a rapidly transforming Mercy. Particularly, in his children’s literature course, the humor was not lost on him. “The instructor, a nun, would begin the course by saying Good morning ladies,” said Bartley, who remembers playfully raising his hand as she continued, and quickly corrected herself with ‘and gentleman’.

Bartley loved the close-knit atmosphere he felt at the Dobbs Ferry campus. His easy-going nature allowed him appreciation for the unique experience at the then small college, steadily offering its students the ample opportunity to build their futures. All of it was part of an interesting adventure for Bartley who rented a room with a local Dobbs Ferry family during the week, travelling back home on weekends to Nassau County to visit his family and his girlfriend, Kathleen.

“So many things were changing all at once then,” he said. “Many of the students were nuns, and by my senior year many of them were no longer wearing their habits or even leaving the sisterhood.” All around it was a time of momentous changes in the country. So too, were the changes ahead for Bartley. By graduation, he lined up his first teaching job, simultaneously learning with great relief his draft number for Vietnam was not going to be called. And just one month later, he married Kathleen.

Now, 50 years later, he says still speaks highly of the education he received at Mercy. “I don’t know that I could have made a better decision, and I still sing Mercy’ praises,” said Bartley. Though the 50th reunion for this coming May, will be held virtually for now, he is looking forward to connecting with fellow classmates to recapture the memories of that time from the comfort of his home in Oswego N.Y. This celebration obviously precedes his other important milestone – a golden anniversary, one he thinks he shares in common with a few fellow graduates likely to also be ordering their own anniversary cakes. “There were at least 10 classmates that were planning a June 12, 1971 wedding,” said Bartley.