Xavier Magazine

Service with a Smile

Mary Theresa Duwel Thiemann has never received a paycheck, but the 1950 Edgecliff graduate devotes her life to making sure others do. Armed with an M.Ed. in counseling, a social worker’s license and years of volunteering as a case manager, Thiemann approached the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 1995 determined to show Cincinnati’s underprivileged that their boots were made for workin’.

Through the service organization, she founded Operation Bootstrap, a six-week job readiness program designed to help the homeless, chronically unemployed and criminal offenders get back on their feet—and stay there.

“It’s all generated by this special woman who believes the people are her mission in life,” says Joan Thompson, coordinator of Edgecliff alumni for the national alumni association. Speakers from the University offer motivational classes and career planning seminars for Bootstrap students. Other local organizations offer classes in nutrition, budgeting, banking, spiritual values and other topics. Two-thirds of her graduates are now permanently employed. Thiemann’s lifetime of service earned her the Sr. Mary Virginia Sullivan Award this spring. The award is given annually to an Edgecliff alumni who exemplifies the ideals of the college.

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