Early Childhood Magnet School Classroom Dedicated to Former Valedictorian
As a student, alum, and Board of Trustees member, Merilee DeJohn has left a profound mark on Goodwin College. As a result of a generous contribution to the Goodwin College Foundation, a classroom at the new Early Childhood Magnet School now literally bears her name.
DeJohn, who was valedictorian of the Goodwin College Class of 2007, was honored on Friday, November 8, in a ceremony that left her surprised and humbled. A large crowd of people, including Goodwin alumni, Board members and senior executives, gathered in the Goodwin College Early Childhood Magnet School to celebrate as classroom 134 was dedicated in her honor.
“Everything I’ve done has always been about the children and that’s what makes this so special to me,” DeJohn said.
Her husband Gene DeJohn worked secretly with the College to make a generous gift and name the classroom after Merilee. Goodwin College invited her to speak at an alumni event for grads of the Early Childhood Education and Child Study programs, without spilling the secret that the unveiling would be the highlight.
“We all knew she wouldn’t decline an offer to help the College whenever she could,” Gene DeJohn said as he introduced the surprise.
The contribution will help strengthen the Goodwin College Foundation’s endowment, which provides scholarships and other opportunities to students. Given DeJohn’s focus on Early Childhood Education and her role as a teacher, the new magnet school was the ideal setting for a classroom to be named in her honor.
Gene DeJohn recalled how Merilee’s experience at Goodwin provided the foundation for a career dedicated to serving children. A former stay-at-home mom, she was inspired to seek a job as a paraprofessional on the advice of a teacher. At the time, Goodwin had recently established an associate degree program in Early Childhood Education and Merilee enrolled in the program. She was 42 years old at the time of her enrollment.
DeJohn would graduate in 2007 not only at the top of her cohort, but as the College’s valedictorian. She has since earned bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Hartford and is working toward a Master’s degree in special education from St. Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. She teaches second grade at Highcrest Elementary School in Wethersfield.
Her ties to Goodwin College have been reinforced through the years. In 2008, DeJohn was named to the College’s Board of Trustees and serves on its Student Affairs subcommittee. She also chairs the Alumni Leadership Committee and is a constant presence at Goodwin events and gatherings.
“She is not just my aunt, she’s an inspiration,” said her niece, Christina Sorano, a Goodwin College pre-Nursing student.