Career Path Leads Back to Mercy
She not only found her career at Mercy High School, but her Catholic faith and the charisms of Catherine McAuley were nurtured there. Now Sandy Goetzinger-Comer ’70 is the Director of Communications for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, West Midwest where she continues her passion for helping others while publicizing the lives of the Sisters and seeing the impact those Sisters have on society.
Her journey began at Holy Cross Elementary School and it was a natural evolution to attend the high school across the street.
“Having Sisters as teachers and examples of Catherine and her commitment to the poor of the world at Mercy was very life giving and has remained with me throughout the years.”
According to Sandy, she entered Mercy as a shy girl. However, she made a decision to overcome that trait with the help of classmates and her involvement at the school.
“For me, academics were a priority. I actually found my career at Mercy. I was an avid reader and loved English and writing. But when I took Journalism as an elective my sophomore year, I knew it was for me.”
She did reporting, photography and layout and was on the yearbook staff. She also took three years of French and four years of Latin. Being a member of French Club and Junior Achievement, while also covering events for Journalism, kept her busy. She recalls going to Mercy and Prep dances and having a great group of friends, many who are still friends today.
Sandy received a full scholarship to Creighton University and felt well prepared because of her education at Mercy.
Her senior year at Mercy, she took part in a journalism competition that the University of Nebraska at Lincoln hosted. She had to create a successful ad on the spot. She was surprised to learn she earned first place. She also entered the photo competition and placed second.
“My Mercy education and the experience I gained there helped me succeed in the competition.”
At Creighton she was involved in Delta Zeta sorority and, as part of her Journalism curriculum, the university’s newspaper, The Creightonian. She worked on the publication for four years, becoming editor a semester of her senior year.
She thought she would eventually be a teacher because most women at that time either taught, were secretaries or nurses.
“I took a part-time position at Omaha Steaks as a copy writer and I had a major ‘ah ha’ moment. I learned that the field of Journalism has many opportunities.”
Her first position was at the Midlands Business Journal. During her tenure she did everything from interviewing, writing stories, headlines, taking, developing and printing photos, designing ads, laying out and pasting up the paper and even preparing and making negatives for printing.
“My education and experiences at both Mercy and Creighton really gave me an advantage as I took on these responsibilities.”
In 1982, she joined Mutual of Omaha in employee communications. Among the positions she held was editor of the employee publication at Mutual of Omaha and at the same time she wrote for the daily newsletter. Later Sandy was assigned to the sales communication and worked on incentive/marketing materials for the sales staff.
“My ability to be flexible and my education in many aspects of journalism served me well.”
Sandy moved to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1989 beginning as a publications coordinator and then heading the Department of Public Affairs for her last 13 years. She was with the institution for 19 years and their department reported to the chancellor’s office. As a result, the work involved overseeing a talented team and their work in media relations, publications, employee communications and special events. “When I began there in 1989, the Durham Outpatient Center did not yet exist.”
“I especially loved interviewing researchers, learning the amazing things they were working on and then finding a way to communicate their discoveries with the general public. The environment was exciting, and I felt I was contributing to the health of individuals and families. Again, Mercy instilled in me that desire to make a difference.”
In 2008, she saw God’s hand in her life again when she decided to work for the Sisters of Mercy as their structure changed from 25 communities to six and the West Midwest Community was born. The West Midwest includes Sisters, Mercy Associates, Companions in Mercy and staff from Detroit, Michigan, to Auburn, California with major concentrations in Detroit, Chicago, Cedar Rapids, Omaha, Burlingame (near San Francisco) and Auburn (near Sacramento) California. The communications staff of three is responsible for a bimonthly newsletter, writing stories of the Sisters to share internally and externally, media relations, photography, videography, design and special events. They also connect regularly via technology with colleagues at the other five major areas across the United States, Guam, the Philippines, South and Central America. As a result, her work has involved travel to meet and witness the work of the Sisters first-hand.
“I am inspired by these highly educated, talented women, how they live their lives as individuals and in community and what they do to help those who are marginalized and address issues that affect us a nation.”
As Catherine McAuley addressed the needs of the day, so too have the Sisters of Mercy. From the early years of opening hospitals and schools, the areas of focus for the Sisters of Mercy have changed over the years to identify five key areas which they call “critical concerns.” Sandy enjoys sharing the stories of their work in these areas which are earth, anti-racism, non-violence, immigration and women.
Over the years, Sandy has continued to be involved with the high school and has served on the Alumnae Council and Board of Trustees. She participates in FIESTA, the annual Golf Fest and has helped with the phone-at-thon. Currently she is working with classmates to plan their 50th class reunion. No surprise, Mercy is also part of her family’s legacy. Mercy graduates are: daughter, Lauren ‘13; sisters, Joan Goetzinger Villanueva ’75 and Pat Goetzinger ’76; and nieces Sara Goetzinger Tingelhoff ’93 and Alyssa Goetzinger Wattonvilel ‘96. Great niece Delanie Wattonville is currently a sophomore.
“I support Mercy because I want to see the tradition of academic excellence and the caring environment that shapes future women of mercy continue. I also value the fact that Mercy makes it possible for girls who might never be able to afford this education to do so.”
She should know. Mercy helped her discover a career where her skills and talent are making a difference.
Pictured left to right above are : Sr. Maria Klosowski, Sandy, Sr. Caroline Coffey and Sr. Margaret Mary Hinz.