Today, we celebrated the anticipation of a special Villa tradition, our Family Mass and Picnic.…
An Alumna’s Recollection
Julie Heaney, Class of 1980 ~ Administrative Patent Judge
(as seen in Villa Connections Magazine 2020)
Julie Heaney is a member of Villa Maria Academy Lower School’s Class of 1980, the first 8th-grade class to graduate after the move to the new campus. We asked her to recall her memories as a student at Villa Maria.
When did you start going to Villa?
I started at Villa in 6th grade. I think my parents chose Villa because they had both attended Catholic schools.
What do you remember about lower school when it was on the same campus as the high school?
The beautiful grounds, the dance lessons in the dance studio in old St. Cecilia Hall. It used to sit across the driveway from St Joseph’s Hall, but it is no longer there. When I started 6th grade, we were required to take tap dancing one day a week in place of a gym class.
When did you hear about the new school?
In the spring of 7th grade, we learned that the lower school was going to move to the House of Studies at the end of the school year.
What do you remember about getting ready for the move?
I don’t remember much about my involvement in the move, although I’m sure we must have spent a lot of time toward the end of the school year to help with the packing. I remember that the father of my friend arranged for the demolition company he worked for to provide an 18-wheel tractor-trailer as a moving van to move our school to the new building.
What are your memories of the new campus?
It was very exciting to be in the new school at the House of Studies for the start of 8th grade! The gym was so much larger and nicer than the old gym at the high school. That gym has since been torn down. We were able to use the beautiful chapel at the House of Studies; at the high school, we didn’t have anything like that. A particularly memorable thing about the House of Studies chapel was the two levels of choir lofts that our singing groups could use at Mass. I also remember the mini-theater on the ground level of our wing.
We didn’t use the upper level at all. It was still configured as dormitory rooms, and we weren’t permitted to go up there. When we were cleaning our classrooms at the new lower school, we all wanted the job of cleaning the chalk erasers, because there was a central vacuum system in the basement that we used to suction the chalk dust. It was a lot of fun.
A kitchen and cafeteria needed to be built because there wasn’t anything like that in our wing. My mother was hired to set up and run the new kitchen, so that was very memorable for me! It was nice to have her working just down the hall for my eighth-grade year.
The only thing I remember missing (about the former campus) was the sports field. We used an area next to our wing for field hockey practice, but it was very rough and difficult to play on. My memory is that we went back to the high school to play our home games that year.
What was unique about being the first class to graduate on the new campus?
It was special to have our graduation Mass in the Motherhouse Chapel.
What is your life path since graduating from Villa?
I received an engineering degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and directly after earning that degree, I went to Columbia Law School with the idea of specializing in patent law. One of my engineering professors inspired my interest in that idea. I’ve now been working in the field of patent law for almost 30 years. For most of that time, I worked in patent litigation at a law firm, and for the past four years, I’ve been an Administrative Patent Judge at the US Patent & Trademark Office.
How did being a student at Villa Maria Academy Lower School impact your life?
In patent law, having a solid foundation in sentence structure and grammar is just as important as having technical knowledge when it comes to working with patent claims. I credit my language arts lessons in 6th-8th grade at Villa for giving me that foundation! I think that my years at Villa also nurtured my self-confidence and sense of social responsibility, values which I hope to pass on to my two sons.