It’s nearly impossible to spend any time in Bouvé College of Health Sciences’ physical therapy program without feeling Dr. Mary J Hickey’s impact. For many, Northeastern University is synonymous with Mary.
Mary passed away in 2021 after her courageous yearslong battle with breast cancer just shy of celebrating 25 years at Northeastern. In that time, she helped transform the physical therapy department. Starting as a professor and moving up to director of undergraduate affairs of Bouvé’s Department of Physical Therapy, Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences, Mary taught and mentored countless students, many of whom are now faculty in the program.
“I think what she would say she was most proud of is the time she spent as the director of undergraduate affairs, which was really just a culminating title of what she had always done,” said Kristin Greenwood, associate dean of network programs at Bouvé and former chair of the department.
Greenwood, who was a student of Mary’s during her first year of teaching, spent most of her professional career learning from her.
Her ways of teaching were memorable. She was much more than a professor. She knew everyone’s name and wanted to see them be successful. She would make sure students were in class every day, remind them of their exams, and do one-on-one tutoring.
She had a real passion for physical therapy and was always focused not on what her students were learning, but how her students were going to treat their future patients.
“She was very famous for if a student would come in late, just quietly saying to the student at the end of class, ‘Would you do this to your patient?’ and ‘This is why you’re not going to do this again,’” Greenwood recalled.
Mary also loved any excuse for a celebration. Many remember how she would walk around saying ‘Happy New Year’ in September to celebrate the new academic year. Or how she would have the Northeastern University Police Department bring their dog around before exams as a way for students to relieve stress.
As we are nearing a full year without Mary in our lives, the department continues to support all students the way that Mary supported all students. The Dr. Mary J. Hickey Physical Therapy Scholarship Fund was created for the students, with the intention of carrying on Mary’s legacy at Northeastern and within the physical therapy program forever. Every dollar donated goes toward students.
“I think it’s so great that we’re honoring her that way by her name on the scholarship because it’s not just to remember Mary, but really to remember the purpose of Mary, and the characteristics that Mary brought and the dedication to the program,” said Greenwood.