By Wayne Rowe
Maryjo Mundey grew up in Shelby, a small blue-collar town in north-central Ohio, figuring she’d simply follow the footsteps most of her friends and family did:
“You got married, worked hard and raised your family,” she said.
Those values, instilled from a very early age, still are a part of her character today. But in the back of her mind, something was missing.
“I always wanted to go to college,” Mundey said. “In my household, my dad was a blue-collar worker. We just didn’t talk about it (going to college). It wasn’t that my parents were opposed to education. It just wasn’t a priority for their kids to go to college.”
And so Mundey set off down that well-worn path, marrying right out of high school and soon having two kids. But eventually, she found herself as a single mother of two young children trying to make ends meet, and any thoughts about going to college were very far away indeed.
But then she took a job that would change her life — an opportunity at the Alber Enterprise Center, a workforce development center at OSU Marion.
According to Mundey, her supervisor, the late Greg Passewitz, mentored her and helped her realize her potential, and soon she was able to tap into that thirst for knowledge by reviving her long-abandoned wish to go to college.
It didn’t take much to ignite a sense of urgency to pursue her Ohio State degree.
“I wanted to make a good life for my kids and set a good example about how important education is,” she said.
She began taking courses at OSU Marion in 1998, making the commute to the Columbus campus for a few of those years — all the while holding down a full-time job and raising her children.
“Our life revolved around school. We would sit around the dinner table, all doing our homework,” she said.
She earned her BS in Business Administration in 2005. Passewitz was there beside her to award her diploma. “When I walked across that stage, it was one of the best moments of my life,” she said.
She realized through that journey that she enjoyed the concept of lifelong learning and that prompted her to pursue her master’s degree in 2011.
“I knew if I wanted to get ahead financially in today’s world, I was going to have to have a graduate degree,” she said.
And now Mundey is scheduled to receive her MBA May 5, when nearly 10,000 students are presented degrees at Spring Commencement in Ohio Stadium.
During her educational journey, she also worked her way up through the professional ranks of the university — from administrative assistant to program manager, and most recently, she was promoted to human resource manager at Ohio State Marion. She hopes to keep moving up to be a director or vice president.
Mundey is proud of the example she set; now, hard work is still part of the family mantra, but a college education became more than just a fleeting thought and instead was an expectation.
Mundey’s daughter Crystal graduated from OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009 and now serves as medical director at Rascal Animal Hospital in Dublin.
Her son Ryan graduated in 2010 from the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and is a research biologist at Scotts Miracle Gro in Marysville.
“I am so adamant about staying in school and getting your education,” Mundey said. “No one can ever take your education away from you.”
Thinking back to those days in Shelby, Mundey has advice for anyone who feels a college education is not in the cards.
“Just keep plugging away,” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Follow your dreams.”