“It’s been a good ride” – Marlene Wojtowicz retires from HFC
After more than 20 years of serving as the Division Secretary of the HFC School of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Professional Development (BEPD) (including its previous forms), Marlene Wojtowicz will retire from the College on February 29, 2024.
“The irony isn’t lost on me that it’s a leap year,” said Wojtowicz. “You know when it’s time. I remember waking up in early July and telling my husband, ‘It’s time.’ I told him I was going to retire. I gave the College seven months’ notice. People have tried to convince me to stay, but it’s better leaving on your own terms when people don’t want you to go!”
Wojtowicz’s supervisor, Henry Ford Middle College Trade School Coordinator Ledgra Johnson, is sorry to see her retire. Johnson likened herself and Wojtowicz to Batman and Robin, saying they were the dynamic duo.
“Batman and Robin have nothing on us!” joked Wojtowicz.
By the same token, Johnson is happy for Wojtowicz as she begins the next phase in her life.
“We celebrate Marlene's amazing journey of ingenuity, generosity, social grace, thoughtfulness, and steadfast straightforwardness as she sets off on a well-earned retirement,” said Johnson. “Her influence on our team will be treasured for years, and her legacy is woven throughout our workplace. I wish Marlene a happy and fulfilling retirement, following more than 20 years of excellent service."
Her family’s HFC ties run deep
A lifelong Dearborn resident and the eldest of seven, Wojtowicz has been married to James, an HFC alumnus, for 56 years. They have two sons, Jamie and Jeff (who also attended HFC), and four grandchildren. Their granddaughter, Sadie Wojtowicz, is a student in the Middle College.
“My husband remembers when HFC was Henry Ford Community College and the Reuther Liberal Arts Building (Building K on the main campus) was the only academic building on campus. He had to register for classes in the gym,” said Wojtowicz.
Wotjowicz has family members who work or have worked for the College, including:
- Her sister Jodi Kenney
- Her brother-in-law Troy Gibson
- Her brother Steve Jergovich (who is married to Gibson)
"Marlene has been part of the Dearborn community for her entire life," said Gibson. "She shares in the city's success and has connected her love of the community with education. Marlene understands that an educated community helps the overall success of that community. She willingly shares her knowledge of Dearborn and HFC with her colleagues and students. I have worked with Marlene side-by-side and watched students develop into successful young adults with her assistance. She takes pride in the students' accomplishments, and many have returned to share their successes."
A graduate of Fordson High School, Wojtowicz began her career at Manufacturer’s Bank (now Comerica). She later became a teller and eventually worked her way up to being secretary to the vice president. When Manufacturer’s merged with Comerica, Wojtowicz took a buyout. She worked at the bank for more than 20 years.
Switching careers, Wojtowicz worked for Italy American Construction in Dearborn Heights – which is owned by her brother-in-law, Frank Mastroianni – for 13 years. She was in charge of all the company’s receivables. She remembered working on holidays and envied people who had holidays off.
“Look at me now!” she said. “HFC is very generous with giving employees time off.”
Her brother helped her connect with HFC
Jergovich encouraged his older sister to look into job openings at HFC.
“Steve was a big influence on getting me into the College,” she said.
Thanks to her brother’s persistent urging, Wojtowicz applied. She was hired as a counseling secretary at Dearborn High School and had worked only six weeks when a 12-month job opportunity opened in the HFC Cashier’s Office. She interviewed and was hired.
Her first supervisor at HFC was Rhonda Johnson (no relation to Ledgra Johnson). After six months, Jergovich called again to inform Wojtowicz about an opening in what was then called M-TEC, now HFC’s East Campus.
“I would always call her and tell her to check the College’s jobs hotline. I told her about the opening at M-TEC, so she applied, interviewed, and got the job,” said Jergovich, a retired HFC facilities associate. “Marlene has had a good career and enjoyed the people and the work.”
“Like a candle in the heart of our office”
When the pre-engineering program moved to M-TEC in 2019, instructors Dr. Ashfiqua Connie and Dr. Hassan Mohseni Nameghi remembered how welcoming Wojtowicz was to them.
“Marlene is our go-to person when we need anything,” said Connie. “She was very welcoming when we moved here, and she helped to make our transition smooth. She always responds promptly and with a smile. We'll miss her.”
Added Nameghi: “Like a candle in the heart of our office, Marlene has been a beacon of warmth and light. Welcoming us with open arms, she bridged the gap between schools, nurturing a kind environment for instructors and students alike. As we congratulate her on a well-deserved retirement, her legacy will continue to glow in our memories and hearts.”
M-TEC has been Wojtowicz’s home at HFC for 20-plus years.
“I’ve always loved working here. M-TEC is such a beautiful building,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to have great bosses throughout the years. I’ll miss the people at the College. We have been more like a family than coworkers. I’ll miss getting up in the morning and getting ready for work; it’s always nice to have a purpose. My commute was five minutes -- 10 minutes on a bad day.”
“It’s been a good ride here at the College”
Wojtowicz also served on the HFC Staff Council for 15 years. She served as its chair from 2019-21. She also served on the Women’s Recognition Committee for five years.
“I enjoyed giving time back to HFC,” she said.
Throughout her time at HFC, Wojtowicz has sometimes been confused with Marie Wojewuczki (pronounced “whoa-ja-how-ski”), Assistant to the Dean of the HFC School of Liberal Arts (SOLA).
“It’s that unpronounceable last name,” said Wojtowicz, laughing. “Sometimes I’d get emails meant for her; sometimes she would get emails meant for me.”
Wojewuczki laughed too. She added: “Marlene is a great colleague and friend. She is my go-to for all my P-card (procurement card) questions. She is the P-card queen and is always willing to help. Her expertise and leadership will be missed.”
Wojtowicz’s retirement plans include volunteering with the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra and the Garden Club of Dearborn. She also has plans to travel with her husband, spend more time at their place at Camp Dearborn in Milford, and spend more time with her family.
“I’m blessed to have been in this position at M-TEC for the last 20 years,” said Wojtowicz. “I love working here. It’s been a good ride here at the College. I leave with no regrets.”
There will be a retirement party for Marlene on Thursday, February 29 -- her last day in the office -- at the Welcome Center from noon to 3:00. Please watch the HFC website for further details. Everyone is invited to come and wish Marlene a fond farewell.