20 Years Later: From Marist Graduate to Administrator

An Interview with Mrs. Amelia Gleaton Luke ’01

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Amelia Luke

Mrs. Luke pictured with her date at Senior Prom.

Christian Conte, Editor-in-Chief

In May of 2001, a senior walked across the stage at Graduation, receiving her diploma with a goal to return to Marist in the future. Six years later, after earning her undergraduate degree in Biology and Science Education, she did just that. Now, 20 years after her Commencement, that former student is now one of the brains behind the operation that is Marist School: the Director of Campus and Student Activities. Meet Mrs. Amelia Gleaton Luke ’01.

Luke is now in her 14th year as either a faculty member or administrator at Marist. From creating the master and daily class schedules to serving as a Student Council Moderator to overseeing Marist’s 70+ clubs and student organizations and leading The Terra Project as the Director of Sustainability, Mrs. Luke’s endless dedication is the reason that Marist keeps running. Recently, I sat down with her (in her brand new office space in the newly renovated Wooldridge Building) to discuss her journey from a Marist student to a faculty member and now administrator, calling this place home for over two decades.

 

Christian Conte: So, looking at your 20+ years at Marist, how would you say the school has changed – could be in terms of the overall culture as well as physically?

Mrs. Amelia Luke: Gosh, it has changed a lot. The physical campus has completely changed for sure. When I was a student here, we didn’t have Ivy Street or Centennial Center. We would all pack into the old, non-air conditioned Kuhrt Gym for pep rallies and Masses, and it’s insane to me that we were all able to fit in there. The 7th and 8th graders were stuck up in the rafters! When Fr. Harhager came to Marist as President [in 2008], we started seeing a lot of changes to the physical plant, and to his credit, he was able to update this campus tremendously. Today, it’s so nice to see how bright our hallways are where everything looks new and fresh. Looking at non-physical changes, I think that even though we didn’t call it the “Marist Fam” when I was a student, it definitely existed. We were good about loving and building each other up, and my best friends now are still my best friends from Marist. So, while it’s physically changed, all the good at Marist that we think about today hasn’t really gone away.

CC: Cool! And when you were heading off to college at UGA, did you have any idea about what you wanted to study or that you wanted to return to Marist eventually?

AL: That’s actually interesting. When I was a student, I was very close with the Director of Student Activities at the time, Ms. Harriet Corbett Austin. I did student government with her, and she was a huge mentor to me. Ultimately, I knew that I would love to have her job someday, but I also knew that if I wanted it, I was probably going to have to teach first, which I wasn’t quite sure that I was going to love. I was initially pre-med at UGA but didn’t end up going to medical school because I did not think that I wanted to go to school for that long. And it ended up that I was hired at North Gwinnett, where I student-taught, which was sort of a nice entry to teaching by already having a community there. Once I arrived back at Marist in 2007, I set a course to get a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and things just sort of worked out from there. At first, I taught high school biology and environmental science before moving to the administrative side in 2010.

CC: When you returned now on the faculty side of things, did you have any Marist Mentors – any faculty members, now fellow colleagues, that you looked up to?

AL: Absolutely. It was weird because I felt like I was becoming a part of this group of teachers that had all taught me. It took some adjustment to start calling them by their first names. Dr. Louisa Moffitt, Mr. John Martin, Mrs. Mary Ann Zins, and Mr. Tony Cordell were definitely people that took me under their wing and helped me find my place here. Mrs. Tricia Glidewell, who taught me AP Biology, is probably the reason I became a biology teacher.

CC: As you think back to 20 years ago when you were making your college decision, what would you say to the Class of 2021 that is going through that same process right now as they figure out their next step in life?

AL: Where you go is not a determining factor of your future because you can get a good education anywhere you go, so long as you choose to learn wherever you go. I really wanted to go to [the University of Virginia]; I got in but received no financial aid, so I could not afford to go there and was devastated at first. But, I got an excellent education at UGA and graduated with two degrees in four years. I think that it feels like everything if your future is riding on your college decisions, and it’s just not. In 20 years, no one is going to ask you what other schools you got into – that’s not a thing. And the disappointment fades; I haven’t thought about going to Virginia at all since I stepped foot on UGA’s campus.

“Everyone has friends, but at Marist you make Friends that you know you’re going to have for the rest of your life.”

CC: That is fantastic advice, thank you. What favorite memories do you have from Marist – and that could be from your time as a student or a faculty member?

AL: One of my favorite memories was from my senior year when I was the Homecoming Chair for Student Council, and we did an outdoor Homecoming dance that year. It was totally different to be doing something outside, but we made the most of it, and it was so much fun to experience with all my friends and to be a part of doing something that was new and original. Listening to John McGreaham ‘65’s stories in English classes was a highlight – he taught here forever and had these hilarious stories. I guess one of my favorite things is that I started teaching here the same year as one of my best friends did, so it was an amazing first 10 years working with one of my best friends from Marist, Mrs. Elizabeth Dete ‘02.

Luke (left) poses with two of her colleagues and good friends, science teachers Kevin Lisle (center) and Kelly Mandy ’96 (right). (Amelia Luke)

CC: Similarly, when was a specific time when you really felt that power and love of the Marist Fam in any of your years here?

AL: Definitely at Emmaus down at Holy Trinity. I remember another student trying to articulate how Marist was special, and he said that everyone has friends with a lowercase “f” but at Marist you make Friends with an uppercase “F” that you know you’re going to have for the rest of your life. Like, “Y’all are my people, and I know I will always be able to turn to you.” And he’s still one of my best friends now.

CC: After being a student here, you chose to return to Marist and work here, so something about this place must feel special. So, why choose to call Marist your home away from home for so much of your life?

AL: Marist was definitely a home away from home as a student and because I felt such a sense of community here, I knew I wanted to work here if I ended up going into teaching. The kids are just the best and the nicest – from a teaching perspective, I had never once been thanked for a class [at North Gwinnett], and kids at Marist leave a class and say “thank you” all the time. It was astounding to me that that happened. I really just knew that the teachers had been here for a long time, it was a well-established community, and I just felt it was like a Homecoming – I was coming home when I was hired here.

CC: Does any part of where you are now in your life surprise you?

AL: It surprises me that I have an office this beautiful after having a dungeon office for 10 years. It’s astounding that I have a wall of windows and one of the best views on campus – I never thought that would happen.

CC: As you reflect on these past few decades at Marist, how would you sum it all up in one word or phrase?

AL: My first instinct or piece of advice is to say “you get out what you get in” and to really get out the full experience here, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and engage because what you get back is so tremendous, but you also have to take the first step. But the only word that comes to mind is home – I feel like I am home.

 

Mrs. Amelia Gleaton Luke ’01 is the true definition of a Marist War Eagle and has called 3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road home for 18 years: four as a student and 14 as a faculty member and administrator. She lives with her husband, and two children, Hampton and Eloise. Thank you, Mrs. Luke, for all you do for our community each and every day. Marist would be incomplete without you.