Mary E. Walachy
The casual observer might never know that the Davis Foundation is considered one of the largest family foundations in Massachusetts and that it is increasingly seen as a national model in terms of its commitment to early education. So, it should come as no surprise that when the Trustees identified the person they wanted to lead the Foundation as Executive Director, they chose a person cut from the same cloth, Mary Walachy.
Hired in 1997 to manage the affairs of the Davis Foundation, Mary’s responsibilities include development of the organization's strategic direction, general oversight of its administration, developing proactive and new funding initiatives, developing the Foundation’s funding and application guidelines and reviewing grant proposals. But that's just what her résumé says.
In truth, Mary is the unassuming, effective, driving force for the Foundation and its agenda. That agenda has included the development of a niche as a leading funder in education and early education. Under Mary’s direction, the Foundation launched the Cherish Every Child initiative, focused on improving the lives of Springfield’s children from birth through age five and their families by helping to ensure that they enter Kindergarten ready to succeed and has been a critical ally in the successful passage of Pre-K legislation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The initiative also successfully engaged the workforce development and family literacy establishment in recognizing the long-term return on investments in early education.
In 2009 the Foundation expanded its Cherish Every Child initiative to include Read! Reading Success by 4th Grade, a comprehensive campaign to improve the reading proficiency of children from birth to 8 years old and aimed at the goal of all of Springfield’s 3rd graders achieving reading proficiency. Mary also created the Funder Collaborative for Reading Success, a collaboration of over 12 funders who have collectively raised over $2 million in support of early literacy and reading success.
In 2013, Mary was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to the state Board of Early Education and Care, a twelve-member board which oversees policy for preschool, daycare and out-of-school and summer programs statewide, and is currently serving as vice chair.
Mary was also the leading architect in the creation of Springfield Business Leaders for Education (SBLE), a group of over 40 local employers concerned about and committed to improving educational attainment from preschool through grade 12, to higher education and career training. SBLE’s goal is to ensure a skilled workforce and economic opportunity for all in the community.
Mary’s other accomplishments include directing the Davis Foundation in a number of other collaborative endeavors, including the CAN DO initiative between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, which focuses on the nursing shortage in Western Massachusetts. She also developed a partnership with the Lumina Foundation, the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, and The Boston Foundation to establish the Achieving the Dream Initiative, designed to address community college retention and graduation rates.
Under her direction, the Davis Foundation has received national recognition for its work, including a feature in the National Center for Family Philanthropy and in the Council on Foundations' book, "The Giving Family.”
Mary’s dedication to the community does not end at the Davis Foundation. She is currently a member of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Executive Committee, is an adjunct faculty member at Bay Path University’s Graduate School and at Asnuntuck Community College, a steering committee member for the Massachusetts Early Education for All campaign, and a member of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Plan for Progress Coordinating Council. She was also the past Co-Chair of Homes Within Reach – the City of Springfield Plan to End Homelessness. Mary was named the 2005 “Woman of Distinction” by the Pioneer Valley Girl Scout Council. She received an Honorary Degree from Springfield Technical Community College and most recently was awarded the 2015 Humanics Achievement Award from Springfield College.
What Mary is most known for, however, is the humble determination with which she has helped to establish the Davis Foundation as a leading philanthropic organization locally, statewide and, increasingly, on the national scene.