By Serena Howlett, Contributing Writer
Westborough – In 1868 poet, playwright, peace advocate and suffragist Julia Ward Howe co-founded the New England Women’s Club, a forerunner of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). Last spring, Reene Hatherley, president of the Westborough Women’s Club, received a phone call from GFWC. Heatherley was “shocked” to learn she had been chosen to receive the Julia Ward Howe award in recognition of her service and dedication to her club and local community.
“When the Women’s Club asked me to be president,” Hatherley recalled, “I was backed against the wall. They said it would be easy.”
Although working with volunteers was not easy, Hatherley excelled and after two years, the Women’s Club asked her to stay on for another term.
“I do none of this alone,” she said. “There’s always a cast of supporting people. I am the conductor who makes sure everyone is doing their part.”
As president, Hatherley increased membership, used social media to promote the club, and engaged members in club activities. For the “Holiday House Tour,” members open their homes, decorated for the holidays, to visitors. “Ladies Night Out” is a popular annual show. The club uses funds raised to award college scholarships to outstanding high school seniors.
Hatherley honed her interpersonal and administrative skills as a teacher and principal in Westborough schools. Her first teaching job in Westborough was at the Armstrong School. In 2002, she left Armstrong to teach at the newly opened Mill Pond School. When asked to take on the assistant principal job, Hatherley could not refuse. She achieved certification as an educational administrator and became the Mill Pond head principal.
“I loved working with kids,” she told me. “I never thought I would be a principal!”
One of Hatherley’s proudest accomplishments was introducing and leading the Mill Pond School’s participation in the Character Education Partnership developed by the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.
“This program involved the whole school – students, teachers and guidance counselors,” explained Hatherley. The program culminated in “The Mill Pond Touchstone” which to this day embodies the school’s spirit.
Hatherley retired in 2013.
“That first year not in a school was very hard,” she recalled.
Before long she was back at work. This time as an itinerant consultant for “co-teaching partnerships” which paired special education and classroom teachers in a co-teaching model. “Consulting saved me,” she mused.
After five years of consulting, Hatherley finally had time for the Women’s Club. She “needed something to fill the void.”
This year, as president, Hatherley is brainstorming with members about ways for the Women’s Club to stay vital to the community. They have already dived into collaborations with local organizations such as the food pantry.
Reflecting on her journey, Hatherley said people chose her for leadership roles because they knew she would meet the challenge.
“I put 100 percent of my effort into every job,” Hatherley said. “People know I will do any job until it isn’t my job. But I couldn’t have done any of my jobs without support.”