Mary Johnston, first female principal in Waterloo County, passes away

The Waterloo Region District School Board is mourning the loss of Mary Johnston. In 1968, Mary became the first female principal in Waterloo County. Mary retired from the WRDSB in 1987, after spending more than 35 years in education.

Mary Johnston, bottom left, at Winston Churchill Public School’s 50th anniversary in April 2015.

“We are saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Mary,” said John Bryant, director of education. “Mary has been a long-time advocate for public education in the Region of Waterloo and will be greatly missed by our school community.”

Mary was a pioneer and a leader who worked to break down traditional barriers, not only in education, but also for women in the greater Kitchener-Waterloo community. She began her career as a teacher in 1950 in a one-room schoolhouse, located on Bearinger Road.

“Mary was a lifelong champion of education. She dedicated her life to teaching students, developing public education and improving the community around her,” said Scott McMillan, chair of the board. “She opened doors and blazed a trail so women who followed could also be leaders in education. She will be missed incredibly, but her legacy endures.”

During retirement, Mary remained committed and involved in community organizations and events. Mary Johnston Public School, where she was a regular visitor, was named in her honour in recognition of the significant contributions she made to public education in the Region of Waterloo.

“Mary will be deeply missed by staff, students and community members,” said Karin Bileski, principal at Mary Johnston Public School. “Mary was a fixture at our school and attended many school events, celebrations and performances. She wanted to provide encouragement and recognition for the hard work students and staff put into their community.”

Throughout her career, Mary was recognized for her contributions to public education and her community, including a Diamond Jubilee award, the first Professional Regional Woman of the Year award and the Queen’s Silver, Golden and Diamond anniversary medals. She was a member of A Legacy of Leaders in the City of Waterloo and was inducted into the Waterloo County Hall of Fame.

“Mary was a trailblazer. She inspired several generations of students, teachers and parents by proving that, through hard work and determination, you can indeed move mountains,” said Laura Briant, teacher at Riverside Public School. “As my principal at Winston Churchill Public School, Mary inspired me as a student to become an educator. Mary is a daily inspiration for me in the classroom.”

The flags at the Education Centre and Mary Johnston Public School will be lowered to half-mast to honour Mary’s memory. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 2 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, located at 54 Queen St. North in Kitchener.