Warrior at heart: The commitment of mental health social worker Mary McLeod

I was born a Wayne State Warrior/Tartar. My parents met at Wayne State as students and each worked for the University at different times in their careers. It always felt like home and was the obvious choice for me to pursue my passion while staying in the city that I love. – Mary McLeod

As the oldest of four children, Mary McLeod knew money was tight and she needed to get an education that would allow her to live at home. Wayne State University (WSU) was the ideal choice. Her parents, Frank and Gretchen Tuohey, instilled the importance of higher education in her at a young age. Having both worked on campus, her father as the WSU director of public relations and her mom for the Alumni Association, Mary would frequently visit Midtown and still strolls the urban campus to this day.

In 1972 Mary earned her bachelor's of education and was drawn to the idea of earning her advanced degree in social work after having children. “It was a tough road to earn my MSW while being married and having children, but my family and the faculty/staff in the School of Social Work were extremely supportive. I was not a traditional student right out of high school and the School understood that. They embraced the life skills and knowledge that I brought to the classroom,” noted Mary. “There were a lot of sacrifices, but in the end, both myself and my husband Chet were able to reach our academic goals. Chet earned his master’s of psychology from the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute and I earned my master’s of social work in 1987.”

The School did a wonderful job of preparing me to enter the workforce. Two years of field education placements immersed me in the social work community and really gave me a feel for what I could do with my degree. Ultimately that experience helped me line up a job after graduation.  – Mary McLeod

Heart and hands iconMary had a long distinguished career utilizing both her degrees in education and social work. She began working in an adolescent day treatment program in Farmington and Southfield, working her way up to supervisor positions. When Oakland County withdrew from direct service in schools, Mary was able to supervise individuals in a clinical setting and worked for many years for Oakland County Community Health. Mary spent the remainder of her career as a supervisor in the Easter Seals Family Mental Health division, eventually accepting the role as Director of Family Mental Health.

Although Mary retired in 2007, she has continued to stay active in the social work community serving on the state board for the Association for Children’s Mental Health and maintains her social work licensure. “I worked too long and hard to obtain it, I am not about to lose it now,” noted Mary. Mary currently volunteers for her neighborhood association board and a neighborhood community development organization supervising interns from universities across southeast Michigan.

I really enjoy working with the students; it has been a rewarding experience for me. My advice to them is simple – be open to new opportunities and ways of thinking, and remember you are an asset to any organization. COVID-19 has changed the approach to what we do, but not the purpose; connecting with others and building those relationships to improve communities and the lives of its residents. - Mary McLeod

Outside of her professional life, Mary has three children and five grandchildren. Her love of WSU has been infectious, with her oldest daughter and son-in-law both earning three degrees from WSU and her son-in-law working as a warrior faculty member.

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