Principal of Mary, Seat of Wisdom in Park Ridge valued learning, life, lunch
Updated: July 17, 2012 2:16PM
PARK RIDGE — Longtime education administrator Judy Schutter helped a small private elementary school in the suburbs of Chicago earn one of the nation’s highest distinctions: the U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award.
And then she did it a second time.
The past February, in her final year before retiring as principal of Mary, Seat of Wisdom School in Park Ridge, Schutter and her students celebrated the Catholic school’s acceptance into the ranks of Blue Ribbon winners for their academic excellence and philanthropic efforts.
Achieving the acclamation was her goal when she began working in 2009 for the Park Ridge school, which her daughter, Jennie Amato, called “a perfect match.”
A dozen-year battle with breast cancer and, later, an inability to drive to work on her own didn’t curtail Schutter’s commitment.
“There was nothing that was going to stop her,” Amato said.
“She is one of the most courageous and bravest people I’ve met,” said the Rev. Andrew Liaugminas, of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Church. “She was a teacher of how to live life.”
Schutter, of Lombard, died from the disease July 10 at age 64.
Her nearly 40-year career in the Archdiocese of Chicago began at the junior high school of her parish of St. Jude the Apostle in South Holland. Schutter also served as principal of Chicago’s Notre Dame High School for Girls and of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin School in Orland Hills, the first Blue Ribbon awardee under her watch.
At Mary, Seat of Wisdom School, Schutter is credited with reviving the school’s religious identity and strengthening its connection to the parish. And despite the tough economic climate of recent years she successfully demonstrated the value of investing in a Catholic education.
“She did a lot to focus on mission and service work,” Liaugminas said. “There was a lot of unity and working together toward a common identity.”
Last month Schutter retired with some reluctance from her illustrious career in school administration. But since she cared deeply for the Park Ridge school and parish, she had planned to visit with and assist its new principal this summer get settled into his role.
In a farewell letter published in the July 8 parish bulletin, Schutter said stepping down was difficult but that she needed to focus on her health and family.
Schutter and her late husband, George, raised three children and were the grandparents to six children, all younger than 12.
Amato said Schutter viewed their weekly trips for mom’s chemotherapy treatments as an opportunity to spend time together.
“It wasn’t just another day,” she said. “Everything was a celebration. Everything was an opportunity.”
Her mother insisted they lunched after every trip.
“She was a strong believer in sharing a meal together,” Amato said. “It was our date. I am going to miss that so much.”
Schutter’s generosity and genuineness inspired a countless number of people. She individually met and chatted with everyone who came to visit her in the hospital. Amato said she had 40 loving family members and dear friends by her side when she died.
“If you talked to my mom for 5 minutes you would have thought she was your best friend,” she said.
Thousands of students have felt her positive impact, Liaugminas added.
“Both her life and teachings will live on in the hearts and minds of students,” he said. “She was one of those people you meet and who you know made the world a different place.”
A visitation is scheduled for 3-9 p.m. today (July 13), at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Church, 920 Granville Ave. A special memorial service will be at 7:30 p.m.
The funeral Mass is at 10:30 a.m. July 14 at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Church, over which the Rev. Jerry Gunderson will preside; the Rev. Andrew Liaugminas will deliver the homily.