Mary Howisey: “I love this place”

Mary Howisey

Mary Howisey’s journey through higher education was fraught with stops and starts, culminating with the most gratifying of reasons to finally earn a degree: to prove to herself she could do it. Now, she’s helping alumni stay engaged with UW Bothell and paving the way for others to get their degrees.

Growing up in small-town Port Orchard, Mary dreamed of getting a job and having kids after high school. “I didn’t see myself as college material,” she recalls. She took the civil service exam and landed a file clerk position with the IRS. Mary met her future husband, Jim, her first day on the job. Over the next 15 years, she became a stepmom to Jim’s three young kids, advanced to become an IRS auditor, and took countless courses off and on at community colleges. Feeling the urge to leave her high-stress job, she decided to get a business degree.

“I’d always wanted to be a Husky, but the idea of going to a big university was intimidating,” she explains. “Then, one day, we were driving along I-405 and saw this sign that read ‘UW Bothell’. I had no idea it existed!”

She left the IRS for UW Bothell — and immediately realized that the business world wasn’t for her. Suffering panic attacks at the thought of quitting school again, a caring academic advisor guided her to a new major in Society, Ethics and Human Behavior.

“The first day, I knew this was where I belonged. It challenged me as a woman, as a human being, as a citizen of the world,” Mary says. “I wanted to finish my degree, but not for a career. I’d already had my career. It was for me. I needed to prove to myself that I could accomplish it.”

Mary earned her degree in 2002 and is so passionate about UW Bothell, she’s never left. After helping to found the UW Bothell Alumni Council and the Husky 5K that supports student scholarships, she continues to donate money and countless volunteer hours to her alma mater.

UW Bothell staff refer to her as “our volunteer extraordinaire” and count Mary among the University’s most influential ambassadors. “My time here was life-changing. I wanted to stay connected and keep learning,” she concludes. “I love this place.”