NEWS RELEASE: Women’s Advocate Overcomes Near-Fatal Brain Injury to Receive Two College Degrees at 77

Margaret Reilly of Bronxville, who is graduating this year with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, has fought for women’s and children’s rights in child support cases in Westchester County and New York State for more than four decades – but her biggest battle was waged from a hospital bed.

Bronxville grandmother to receive her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree this spring

Margaret Reilly will walk in two graduation ceremonies – Pace University’s on May 22 and SUNY Empire State University’s on June 5

NEW YORK, NY, May 9, 2011 – Margaret Reilly of Bronxville, who is graduating this year with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, has fought for women’s and children’s rights in child support cases in Westchester County and New York State for more than four decades – but her biggest battle was waged from a hospital bed.

Her degrees come 14 years after a severe brain injury nearly killed her.

Now 77 and healthy, she will receive her Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Pace University on May 22 and her Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Empire State University on June 5 with her five children and eight grandchildren cheering her on.

For Reilly, the degrees represent the culmination of her life’s work. She began her career during the height of the women’s movement as an advocate for women and children with Westchester County in 1969, the year California became the first state to adopt a “no fault” divorce law.  In the mid-1970s she was the first woman promoted to investigation and enforcement officer in the Office of Child Support. By the time she retired, she was a supervisor of the Court Liaison Team with a staff of 14.

A month after her retirement in 1995, Reilly joined the Coalition for Family Justice in Irvington as a volunteer and prepared to go back to school to finish her education.

But two years later a near-fatal head injury from a fall while vacationing in Ireland put her dreams on hold. Reilly underwent emergency surgery for bleeding on the brain and to remove damaged brain tissue. Reilly was in a coma for eight days. Her recovery took more than a year and included intensive physical and mental rehabilitation.

She rejoined the Coalition for Family Justice and became director for Family Court cases as an advocate and court watcher.

At age 72, six years after losing her husband, Reilly was ready for a new challenge and enrolled at SUNY Empire State University in 2006.

A graduate of Yonkers High School of Commerce, Reilly took courses during her career in Public Administration at Pace and attended Westchester Community College. She completed all the requirements for her MPA nearly 20 years ago in 1982 but did not receive the degree at that time because she had not yet completed her undergraduate degree program. Reilly completed her undergrad degree program in February of this year.

On Sunday, May 22 she will be walking in Pace University’s graduate commencement ceremony in New York City at 4:00pm at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.

Ironically, she will officially receive her Bachelor’s degree exactly two weeks after her MPA in a ceremony at SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center on June 5 at 3:00pm.

“A degree is something I wanted all my life because most women didn’t go to college when I was young,” says Reilly. “It is an accomplishment, but it’s more than that. At 77, my degree gives me the credentials I need to keep on helping people.”

About Pace University

For 105 years, Pace University has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. www.pace.edu

Contact: Cara Cea, ccea@pace.edu; 914-906-9680