For Mary Akers ’07, MBA ’09, AIC is like a thread woven through the fabric of her life.
“AIC is what brought us to Massachusetts,” says Akers. After World War II, her grandfather relocated from Mississippi to attend AIC with the help of the GI Bill. His family settled in the Springfield area, where Akers was born. Though she was raised in Providence, Rhode Island, she returned to Springfield in 1999 to help her grandfather manage some of his properties.
She took a job as an administrative assistant in AIC’s athletic department, and it wasn’t long before she had another role at the College: student.
“My son was at UMass at the time, and he was thinking of dropping out,” Akers says. “So I challenged him and said I would go back to school if he would stay in school.”
She subsequently earned her bachelor’s in business management in 2007. That’s when she approached then-Vice President of Athletics Richard Bedard. “I told him, ‘I have my new bachelor’s degree, and I’d like a promotion and a raise,’” she recalls. “He promoted me to assistant athletic director. But he also said, ‘Don’t stop now. You have to keep going.’”
With Bedard’s encouragement, Akers entered AIC’s MBA program while continuing to work full-time. As assistant athletic director, she was responsible for hiring Springfield police security for AIC football games. During one game, an officer she hired introduced her to his cousin, Lieutenant Lawrence Akers. He later proposed to her on that very football field.
Akers earned her MBA in 2009, and, in 2014, she was once again promoted, this time to associate athletic director. But although she loved the role, Akers came to a realization: she was passionate about students, not sports.
“I was at an athletic conference and, in one breakout session, the leader asked us to raise our hands if we wanted to be an athletic director,” she remembers. “I didn’t raise my hand.”
~Mary Akers 07, MBA ’09
Akers knew the AIC degrees she’d earned had opened up new possibilities for her career. One day, in 2015, she came across a job description for a role that felt right, and she made a mid-life career change to the human services sector, becoming assistant executive director at Work Opportunity Center, Inc., in Agawam, Massachusetts, a nonprofit organization that helps people with physical and developmental disabilities find employment.
In this role, Akers is responsible for strategic planning, budgeting, and generating revenue through grant writing. “I don’t think there is a typical day,” she says. “I love that I impact people every day and help improve their lives with the decisions I make.”
Akers says it was tough to leave AIC: “The College has had such an impact on my past, present, and future. It’s home, and it’s always going to be home.”
By Dara Chadwick :: photo by Leon Nguyen ’16