Marian McGovern with her rescue dogs, Cavan and Muffy Photo/Andy Weigl, Weigl PhotographyBy Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
In 2012, Col. Marian McGovern, the former head of the Massachusetts State Police (MSP), retired after a career that spanned over 30 years in law enforcement. And although it is now in a different capacity, her time is still spent helping many of society’s most vulnerable – children, the elderly, and victims of abuse – all of whom she worked tirelessly for throughout her career with the MSP.
A native of Worcester, McGovern grew up in a humble but happy household as the daughter of two hardworking Irish immigrants. It was her mother, “Irish Mary,” who she considered her first role model, McGovern said.
“She worked for 34 years in the central supply room at St. Vincent’s Hospital,” McGovern recalled. “Everyone loved her there. I learned so much from watching her work so hard and always giving to others.”
“My mother always liked to say, ‘hard work never killed anyone,’” she added.
In 1979 McGovern was working in the clerk’s office in the Westborough District Court, where several police officers encouraged her to take the state police exam. She followed their advice, and graduated from the state police academy after an intense 20-week training period. She served as a “road trooper” before spending 20 years as a detective in the Worcester District Attorney’s Office. She also served stints in media relations, the crime lab and leadership training.
In 2009, she was promoted to the top position, superintendent, which she held until her retirement in 2012.
“I had one of the best careers, I loved every moment of it,” she said.
It was when Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease that McGovern decided it was the right time to retire. She took care of her mother for several years until late last year when she decided Mary would benefit from living in a nursing home where she could get appropriate care.
“It was very tough to do,” McGovern said. “But I know it’s the best decision for her. She’s not in pain and she’s not sick. She is getting the best care now.”
Now that she is retired, McGovern spends much of her time serving on different boards for organizations close to her heart. Currently she serves on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Children, the Council on Aging for Worcester County, the Holy Name High School Advisory Board, and the Westfield State University Crime Justice Club.
“It’s my time to give back now,” she said. “I am so blessed to be able to do so.”
Working with children at the Boys and Girls Club is very important to her, she said, “because I relate to them.”
“I didn’t grow up that much differently than they did,” she said. “I grew up in a three-decker and I had challenges. I tell them, ‘If I can do it, you can, too.’”
She also encourages others, who, like her, are at a new stage of their lives, to volunteer.
“Find something you are passionate about. Do some research,” she advised. “Don’t just volunteer for something because it’s handy. Find something you love – you will get more out of it.”
When she is not volunteering, McGovern makes sure to stay in touch with friends, including many that she grew up with and many from her days on the MSP. And there are also the two rescue dogs she owns, who “keep me really busy!” she laughed.
“I had a very high-profile job which I loved,” she added. “But now I know I still have so much more to offer. Everyone does. Retirement is not an ending, it’s a beginning.”