Updates from Aquinas College about COVID-19 are at aquinas.edu/coronavirus.  Updates on our academic plans are at aquinas.edu/saintstogether.

Spotlight Tribute: Adjunct Music Instructor Mary Hillyard to Retiring this Spring

Published on

By Dr. Mark Webb and Barbara Witham McCargar

I've had the pleasure of working alongside and collaborating with Mary Hillyard with programs for the 14 years we both taught in the East Grand Rapids Public School District. Happily, this continued at Aquinas College in recent years. Mary's caring and nurturing manner and dedication to giving her students the best opportunities available is apparent in the recognition she's received as one of the finest orchestral instructors in the state. It has been an honor to be her colleague!

On the Music Department faculty webpage, you will see that Mary Beth Hillyard began her teaching career with the Grand Rapids Christian School Association and has spent the past 37 years in the East Grand Rapids Public Schools. She has been an adjunct faculty member at Aquinas College for seven years, teaching Chamber Strings, and she taught String Techniques this past spring. Mary received her B.A. from Calvin College. She completed her 40th and final year of teaching middle- and high-school orchestras in the 2019-2020 school year. She announced her retirement in January to be official in June from her public school teaching. 

During her career, Mary has frequently served as a guest clinician for local school orchestra programs. She has also been a presenter at the Michigan Music Conference. She has attended the Ohio State String Workshop, has taught Suzuki Violin for the Grand Rapids Public Schools and has also taught privately over the course of her career. She has worked for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as an assessor for music educators seeking National Board certification. Mary has taught for the Calvin College Knollcrest Music Camp and Grand Valley String Leadership Camp, and her classroom over the years has been active with cadet teachers, teacher aides, student teachers and college student classroom observations. Mary was chosen as the MSBOA State Orchestra Teacher of the Year in 2004 and capped off her public school teaching career being named MSBOA District 10 Teacher of the Year for 2020.

The Aquinas College string program grew under Mary Beth Hillyard’s direction, and her shoes will certainly be hard to fill for the 2021-2022 school year. Mary is married to fellow retired music educator Frank Hillyard, and they plan on traveling to see their children and their families, as well as lots of leisure trips in their future.

Congratulations, Mary!