Hewitt News

An Open Door and An Open Mind: The Legacy of Former Head of School Dr. Mary Jane Yurchak
Hewitt Communications

The Hewitt School community was saddened by the loss of Former Head of School Dr. Mary Jane Yurchak. As Hewitt’s fifth head of school, Dr. Yurchak led the School from 1990-1999, and is remembered as a devoted and accomplished educator who guided Hewitt through an important decade of pedagogical advances and technological change. Reflecting on Dr. Yurchak’s time at Hewitt, Head of School Dr. Tara Christie Kinsey noted that “Dr. Yurchak brought to Hewitt a commitment to putting educational research to practice in the classroom. Today Hewitt is known for our focus on girls’ research, and we are proud to be the living legacy of Dr. Yurchak’s forward-thinking and innovative spirit.”

When she announced her retirement in 1999, Dr. Yurchak reviewed with pride some notable elements of her legacy: a “curriculum that fosters interdisciplinary thinking” and “a technology program second to none in the New York independent school world.” That year, Morgan Monaco from the Hewitt Class of 2000, then a student reporter for The Hewitt Times, wrote in tribute: 

She arrived at The Hewitt School ten years ago, with a smile on her face and a dedication in her heart to improving the education of young women. Since that first year, that spirit has remained and a legacy was created. When we enter the school in the morning, that same warm hand welcomes us in, and it reminds us that we are part of a community...An open door and an open mind. These things represent the essence of Dr. Yurchak.1

The Hewitt community celebrates the mark Dr. Yurchak left on our school, and we share our sincere condolences with Dr. Yurchak’s family. 

Obituary for Dr. Mary Jane Yurchak

Dr. Mary Jane Yurchak (nee Hogan), formerly of Westfield, NJ; Wellesley, MA; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; and Washington Depot, CT; died peacefully at home on Friday, August 9, 2019, in Warren, NJ, at age 83.

Mary Jane is survived by her daughter Kathleen D. Fritz (Christopher) of Oak Park, IL; daughter Patricia Anne Rexford (Clisson) of Warren, NJ; son Dr. P. Michael Yurchak (Molly) of Pasadena, CA; and grandsons Peter and Charlie Rexford of Warren and Luca and Sascha Yurchak of Pasadena. She is also survived by her sister Kathleen Hogan Bradish (John) of Williamsburg, VA; and brother-in-law Albert Staebler of Little Compton, RI. Her former husband, Dr. Peter M. Yurchak of Wellesley, MA, died in 2007. Mary Jane was preceded in death by her beloved daughter Mary Elizabeth Yurchak, sister Patricia Hogan Staebler, parents Jane and Michael Hogan, and stepmother Mary Hogan of Westfield, NJ.

Mary Jane was born on January 19, 1936, in New Brunswick, NJ, and grew up in Westfield, NJ, where she attended Westfield High School. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Vassar College in 1958 and earned both a master’s degree in elementary education (1959) and a doctorate in human development (1976) from Harvard University.

Mary Jane’s early career included positions as a general-education and special-education teacher in New York and Massachusetts; director of education for the Brookline Early Education Project (MA); senior research associate and project director at the Huron Institute (Cambridge, MA); and assistant superintendent for special education and special services for the Wayland Public Schools (MA). She lectured at institutions including the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Wheelock College, Tufts University, and the University of Chicago.

From 1985 to 2005, she served as head of three independent schools: the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (IL), The Hewitt School (NY), and Poughkeepsie Day School (NY). Upon her retirement, Mary Jane relocated to her beloved house in the woods in Washington Depot, CT, where she devoted her energies to volunteering at the Gunn Memorial Library, the Steep Rock Preserve, and the Washington Ambulance Association, for which she obtained her certification as an emergency medical technician in 2012. She was also an avid gardener.

Mary Jane was a devoted grandmother, who shared her love of nature, reading, bird-watching, and swimming—and secret stashes of chocolate—with Luca, Sascha, Peter, and Charlie. To each of them, she was a reliable confidant, cheerleader, and co-conspirator, and they will cherish their many memories of their beloved “Mia.”

According to her wishes, a private observance for immediate family will be held at a later date. Family and friends wanting to honor Mary Jane may send donations to the Washington Ambulance Association or the Steep Rock Association.

1. By Faith and Courage: A History of The Hewitt School, 1920-2010, Anita Edwards, 2010.