Mary S. Bailey of Milton and Heather A. Block of Lewes will be honored at the 20th annual Women’s Day Celebration Wednesday, May 28, at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville. This event, hosted by Delaware Technical Community College and the Owens Campus Alumni Association, highlights the achievements of exemplary women and benefits the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund. Women of Character, Courage and Commitment is this year’s theme.
Mary S. Bailey began her career with Delaware Tech in 1985 as an intern and quickly became the secretary for the Nursing Department. She has served with six department chairs over 26 years and currently has the longest tenure in the department. During her time with the college, she continued her education to achieve an associate degree in executive secretary technology, a bachelor’s degree in administrative office management, and an associate degree in office software specialist.
“Mary is the front-door experience for the Nursing Department, acting as a liaison between the Nursing Department chairperson, faculty, students, other departments, and the public,” said former Nursing Department Chair Tamala Paxton, who nominated Bailey for the honor. “She is always smiling and brings joy into the lives she touches.”
Bailey is currently an administrative assistant in the Nursing Department. In addition to her liaison responsibilities and other duties, she compiles and maintains statistical records on nursing students and supervises an educational lab specialist and a work-study student.
As a single mother of two sons, Bailey was encouraged by her mother to pursue her education, and her mother helped with the children while she went to school at night and on the weekends. She met and married Anthony Bailey, a single father of a teenage son, when her boys were in middle school. Within one year of their marriage, Mary’s cousin died suddenly, and Mary traveled to New York to obtain custody of her cousin’s four young children, growing the family from five to nine. With the help of her many friends in the Nursing Department, community, and church family, Mary and Anthony were able to move from a two-bedroom home to a four-bedroom home to accommodate their large family.
“Mary is very proud of her children having completed their high school diploma and attending or completing college,” said Paxton. “She is the proud mom-mom to five grandchildren, and she gives forward to her children just as her mother did by keeping her grandchildren frequently on the weekends to provide breaks for her children.”
Bailey is also a very active member of St. John’s 2nd Baptist Church in Millsboro, reaching out to women and children through the Busy Bee’s Choir and the Higher Praize Dance Ministry. She also teaches Sunday school and Vacation Bible School to teen girls and women, in addition to participating in many outreach activities in her church neighborhood and community. Recently she assisted in feeding over 300 people in the community of the church while providing activities for the children.
She has also worked as a teacher’s aide for Turnabout Counseling Center, teaching math and English to elementary school children, and has taught classes for Delaware Tech.
Heather A. Block was awarded a Presidential Management Fellowship by the U.S. government and earned a master’s degree from the University of Maryland, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University. She has over 20 years of experience in project design, start-up, and implementation of programs in emerging democracies. Trained in program development, community organizing, and strategic communications, Block provides leadership and vision to build projects all over the world.
In her current position as project supervisor and acting chief of party for PERFORM, USAID Iraq’s Monitoring & Evaluation Program, she recruits and supervises senior-level officials and staff for projects across Iraq. In her previous position as an advisor to NATO’s Joint Forces Training Center in Poland, she created a donor coordination mechanism with the Ministry of Interior for counter-narcotics activity in Afghanistan.
“Heather is a trailblazer,” said nominator Lisa Perelli of Milford. “A natural at assessing the needs and potential of any given situation, she expanded the DARE program we are all familiar with to 35 nations around the globe, collected shoes and coats for orphan children in Afghanistan, raised the visibility of women in the media in Iraq, and trained board members across the United States that support women’s health initiatives.”
Block’s leadership in her various positions of authority around the world has created venues for Get Out the Vote initiatives, Planned Parenthood fundraising, support to local and statewide election campaigns, and advocacy for those who may face bankruptcy because of inadequate laws regarding health insurance for the disabled under 65 in Delaware. She is also an advocate for education, as was her mother, Neila Block, in whose name she established a scholarship trust for undocumented high school graduates to attend Delaware Tech.
Throughout her professional career, Block has moved from one male-dominated field to another, in positions of leadership and power, maintaining her integrity at all times.
“I’ve heard her stories over the years of dirty, smelly lodgings and electricity only some hours of the day; the difficulties of travel, translations, and accidental cultural transgressions; and the realities of bombings and gunfire, but overall the greatest obstacles were often the men, and in some cases women, who were threatened by her power and sought to block or diminish her work,” said Perelli. “However, her integrity, compassion, and doggedness eventually won over most of her adversaries, forging strong professional and personal relationships that have lasted through the years.”
Block was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Throughout her diagnosis and treatment, she has continued to work. When her illness made travel difficult, she continued to work from her home in Lewes between trips abroad.
The underwriter for the Women’s Day Celebration is Sussex County Council.
Tickets for the dinner are $40 per person, and table sponsorships are $600. A cash bar begins at 5:30 p.m., and dinner will be served at 6 p.m. The deadline for reservations is May 16. For more information and to purchase tickets go to dtcc.edu/owens/womensday or call Alison Buckley, alumni coordinator, at 302-259-6086.