The Compelling Life Story of Margaret Mary Vojtko


Margaret Mary Vojtko died this month, alone, collapsing outside on her lawn, at age 83. She suffered from cancer, although a heart attack took her life. She was beloved aunt of six nieces and nephews. She was–or had been up until this summer–an adjunct faculty member at Duquesne University, a Catholic institution in Pittsburgh. For 25 years, Margaret Mary taught two or three classes each semester. Her part-time teaching seems to have been a second career, commencing when she was in her late 50’s, and her tiny income from Duquesne her only source of funds.

Puzzling, I know.

These few facts about a remarkable women have sadly become her legacy. Less than one month after her death she has ceased to be a person and has become instead a talking point in the futile efforts of adjunct faculty–players straight out of Central Casting–seeking to obtain starring roles in the theater of higher education. First to realize the potential in Madame Vojtko’s sad story was the union organizer for Duquesne’s extras, Daniel Kovalik, who wrote a cruelly exploitative account of her death. Even worse, if that’s possible, is the crass use of her death by the Ohio State Part-Time Faculty Association (OSPTFA):

Margaret Mary Vojtko, 83, died of a stress-related heart attack on Sept. 1 after being fired from her position as an adjunct professor at Duquesne University where she taught French for 25 years. At the time of her death, she was living in poverty and without health benefits.

Read the full story and share it via social media. If you tweet, please use the hashtag #iammargaretmary. We want this to go viral.

Madame Vojtko was not “fired.” Her contract was not renewed. There is a difference, a big one. To defame Madame after her death by implying Duquesne let her go for cause is despicable. To infer her fatal heart attack was related to her employment ignores the grave fragility of her health. Ovarian cancer and its treatment are relentless “stressors.” But no, OSPTFA denies Madame Vojtko end-of-life dignity.

The hashtag #iammargaretmary is a ghoulish appropriation of a unique human being’s suffering that is breathtakingly callous. No member of OSPTFA comes close to having a story like Madame Vojtko’s. Not one. They, along with all of the others seizing on this poor woman’s tragedy, should be ashamed.

Here are some of the things about Margaret Mary Vojtko those hoping to benefit from her death couldn’t be bothered to learn:

Margaret Mary Vojtko was fluent in multiple languages. She was a good colleague who helped read and improve the manuscripts of other faculty. Her interests included a deep passion for history, in particular the local history of her home in Pennsylvania. She wrote a history of her church in celebration of an anniversary, The First Hungarian Reformed Church of Homestead: Munhall, Pennsylvania : 90th Anniversary, 1903-1993. She served as president of the Homestead Historical Society, and worked to preserve a park of historical significance to African Americans. She volunteered fundraising assistance to her town. Madame Vojtko also wrote biographic sketches of Pennsylvanians that the University of Pittsburgh still uses on its website.

Margaret Mary Vojtko has a compelling life story. She is much, much more than a poster girl for overqualified academics who refuse to face the reality of a buyer’s job market or look elsewhere for more gainful employment. I hope someone gives her the memorial tribute she so richly deserves.

The baseball field Madame Vojtko helped preserve. The field was the original home of the Negro League's Homestead Grays.

The baseball field Madame Vojtko helped preserve. The field was the original home of the Negro League’s Homestead Grays.

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57 thoughts on “The Compelling Life Story of Margaret Mary Vojtko

    • One would have thought. And Social Security, too. One might also have thought that the half-dozen nieces and nephews of which she was supposedly “beloved” could have chipped in a few bucks to make sure she could pay her electric bill. But, apparently, they did not.

  1. Thank you for filling in gaps. I wanted to know more of the person, instead of the banner I rather suspected would appall that person. I found some details – the book, the editing, interest in history – , suspected multiple languages. The Hungarians I’ve known have all been language learners, as are most educated speakers of complex, hard to master languages. Not all the interest is exploitation: much is identification; even more, fear

  2. It appears that the open position of Mouth of Sauron has been filled. Given that Votjko was a vocal supporter of the union, it seems that your out-of-touch concepts of what it means to be an adjunct and your definition of “exploitation” may need to be revisited.

  3. The only exploitation of Madam Vojtko was done by her employers while she was alive. I find it rather alarming that you would find fault with those who would bring attention to the shameful treatment of an obviously respected educator who no doubt helped that institution pull in quite a bit of money.

    • If there was any exploiting taking place at Duquesne it was at the hands of the tenured faculty, whose insatiable demands for ever higher salaries, whose cushy teaching loads, and whose inability to see beyond the limits of tiny sub-sub-disciplinary specialties pretty much require that the university employ cheap labor to staff the courses the privileged few can’t be bothered to teach. This circumstance is not unique to Duquesne, of course.

      As far as calling attention to the unhappy plight of adjuncts goes, I am all for it, which you would know if you read my blog (and I hope you do). I just don’t believe in pretending an 83-year-old gravely ill woman represents the majority of part-timers. It dishonors her memory and undermines any sympathy other adjuncts might warrant.

      • Sorry, I am still chafing at the idea of a “Memory” being “dishonored”. The world is for the living, and when Madam Vojtko was alive no one seemed to remember that she and other adjuncts needed a living wage.

        Though there may be blame to be shared with the tenured prima donnas, there is also an abundance of blame for the school’s administration. They make choices about how funds are allocated. When they make the decision to field an NCAA division 1 football team, they are fully aware of who WON’T be receiving a living wage. I’ll bet Jerry Schmitt can afford to keep his heat turned on all winter.

        You’re absolutely correct when you say that the fate of an 83 year old undergoing cancer treatment isn’t representative of the majority of adjuncts. It is, however, illustrative of the slippery slope that every adjunct stands on, and the fiscal danger which they must face in order to ensure that a very few can live like Romanovs.

        So yes, the idealist concept that Madam Vojtko is being “exploited” post mortem conflicts with my admittedly materialist view that we must learn the correct lessons from history, even at the expense of the departed’s “memory” (which, by the way, is not being slandered in this case) and point the finger at the living who maintain the system which makes this outcome both possible and inevitable.

      • I have no experience with campuses on which athletics are big business, and would like to know the degree to which the academic program subsidizes team sports. Any such subsidy is too much.

        You are absolutely correct that there can be no Romanovs without the serfs who labor in the fields of English/French/History 101. That part-timers subsidize full-time faculty is crystal clear, however, and any adjunct deluded enough to see tenured faculty as allies probably does not belong in a classroom. This is not a situation in which the administrators are the bad guys–if anything, they are “just following the orders” of faculty whose rarefied privilege demands low teaching loads, regular paid leave, faculty development funds, the right to choose which courses to teach without regard to curricular requirements, and no retirement age. Unless and until this wildly inefficient and unfair system changes, universities have no choice but to employ day laborers to do the work that full-time faculty avoid with impunity.

      • Schools play a shell game to hide the money spent on NCAA athletics. Every school looses money on their programs. The question is “How Much?”

        You know who does make money on college sports? The NCAA and the networks.

      • I have yet to have an answer to my question: how much $$ is taken out of the academic budget to support athletics? What is the subsidy?

        BTW, I think all of those coaches pulling in $1m+ salaries would have the decency to beg to differ as to who/what rakes in the cash from college sports. And maybe the students who receive lavish athletic scholarships.

        In my utopia, there would be no big-league college sports, even though I do understand the deleterious effect that would have on admissions, donations,
        and the overall economic welfare of a multifacted university.

      • So, it was the fortunate minority of the chattering classes who were exploiting the unfortunate majority of their own class?
        Oh to be such an optimist!
        For the past 40 years at least, universities have been machines for way overproducing qualified professorial types; 250-350 per job opening has long been routine in the humanities & social sciences. The reason is that university departments are funded in proportion as they enroll students in their disciplines; the best way to do this is to encourage majors; and (despite the best efforts of professors) students have this annoying habit of taking degrees. They are then invited to graduate school (university departments are also paid in proportion as they enroll graduate students) and voila, a few of them emerge with PhD’s. Of course there’s attrition all along the process but there are your 250-350 at the end of the pipeline.
        This is one of the key factors in the dual labor market in which the majority can aspire up to $25K per year with no health benefits, job security, or retirement. This is way pre-Reagan, pre-voodoo economics, pre-Tea Party. It’s been with us all for a long time, and there wasn’t even a good reason to think it might go away back in the days when American society might still have been committed to anything like the good life for all. Nowadays it’s no fetus or child left behind; but when the child grows up, it’s devil take the hindmost; so you figure the chances today. There is no incentive for universities to change the dual labor market; there is very good incentive for them to continue.
        Sure Margaret Mary Vojtko was unique (just like everybody else) but that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that her particular case is any less emblematic of a larger development, which is structural.
        You counsel continued attrition at the end of the pipeline. In my experience that is good advice. (I got out of that cycle long ago. I lost a career but gained a life.) However I still can’t say that the pipeline is any less bizarre socially, nor tragic on a human level.

      • You’ll get no argument from me. And I do see that the pipeline is part of the problem, but the more urgent problem in my view is the strain tenure (or to be more accurate low, inflexible teaching loads and lifetime employment) puts on the college’s ability to serve its students. But you have given me a great idea for another post. Thanks!

      • Michael–I edited the Margaret Mary mix up (say that three times fast) but I think the way you originally wrote the minority/majority sentence is correct. Please take a look and let me know so I can fix it for you. Thanks for writing, proofread or not!

  4. As the person who thought of the “ghoulish appropriation of a unique human being’s suffering that is breathtakingly callous”, I strongly object to your remarks. I am an adjunct, and just like Margaret Mary, I have no health care, or other benefits and my pay is as low as hers was.
    Margaret Mary was not just a victim, she was active in building a union a Duquesne. Margaret Mary reached out to Mr. Kovalik, whom you accuse of “exploiting her”. If you were concerned about “exploitation”, it seems that would have thought to mention Duquesne and its administration, who left her impoverished after 25 years of service, and sent police to clear her out of her office when she was without shelter.
    You have no basis whatsoever to make the uninformed remark, “No member of OSPTFA [sic] comes close to having a story like Madame Vojtko’s”. We have just been defending a member who was denied unemployment compensation after a layoff. She has had to resort to selling her plasma.
    And, aren’t you implying that Margaret Mary herself had not paid sufficient deference to your God of the Marketplace?
    Unlike those who, for whatever reason, view the world through an upside-down and backwards lens, we understand the solidarity of workers to be the penultimate dignity. I am Margaret Mary.

    • No. You are not. Argument by analogy is as ineffective as it is inaccurate.

      Moreover, the association you represent will do nothing to ameliorate the employment conditions of adjuncts in the long run. Unionizing part-timers is nothing more than capitulation to the antiquated system of faculty employment overall. In the short run, it makes life easier for administrators who can now create one-size-fits-all contracts for union members.

      Far better to overhaul the entire system than to pick around the gangrenous margins of part-time employment. It turns my stomach to know that adjuncts who may be teaching four or five courses with 30+ students at two or three campuses and who have no assurances of continued employment are subsidizing the 3-4 annual course loads and sabbatical leaves of tenured faculty. It makes me sick that adjuncts teach the introductory courses that inform a student’s first collegiate experience. It saddens my heart that these folk–the part timers–will never get a shot at a full-time job because there are zero incentives for tenured faculty to retire or because their candidacies do not represent the diversity du jour a campus is seeking. It is a system so educationally indefensible that it should have collapsed under its own weight decades ago. And I should know, I was one of those adjunct who worked simultaneously on three campuses, never had fewer than 30 students in a section, and put upwards of 200 miles on my car on certain teaching days.

      But you know what? It was my choice to do this, as much it is your choice and that of any other adjunct. I understood the terms of my adjunct appointments and accepted them for what they were. When I had to make the difficult choice between eating and teaching I found it was not so difficult after all. Any one who is as highly educated and hardworking as the average adjunct has the talent and work ethic to secure gainful employment elsewhere. If the allure of teaching is overwhelming, teach at night or on the weekends but have a day job that pays the rent.

      There is not one iota of obligation–morally, socially, legally–for an institution using contractors to provide them with anything beyond the provisions of the contract. Part-time employment by design does not provide a “living wage.” Don’t make the university the bad guy. Or, yes, on second thought go right ahead and demonize those institutions that continue to churn out PhDs for whom there are no jobs. In my view they are as ethically bankrupt as proprietary diploma mills. You might want to look at some of Robert Oprisko’s or Andrew Hacker’s research to understand just how unlikely it is that a PhD in a non-STEM field will land a tenure-track job.

      Having said all that, I do find fault with Duquesne–for employing any adjunct for a quarter century. It’s an oxymoron that makes my head explode.

      I have a question for you: if solidarity is the “penultimate dignity,” what is the ultimate?

      Thanks for writing.

  5. Full-time faculty with or without tenure are not the problem. The problem is the hierarchical system under which we work. Our current system of higher education sets up a two-tiered system that values one group of faculty and devalues and exploits another. It reinforces a divide and conquer mentality, and we must guard against that. Solidarity among workers is essential if we are to have a positive impact on this systemic problem. Mary Margaret’s nephew was quoted as saying he did not want her death to be in vain. We are working toward that goal by publicizing what happened to her and advocating for equity and justice. And yes, administrators are the people who have power over the system and the way it works. Fired or not renewed? That is semantics. The end result is the same. Margaret Mary Vojtko was without employment and without income. And that additional stress contributed to her health problems. Thankfully, you cannot possibly predict what effect the OPTFA, of which I am a member, will have on the employment conditions of adjuncts in the long run. We do good work and we stand united.

    • That adjuncts work hard has never been in question, at least not in my mind; however, it’s nice to have your affirming voice chime in.

      The “plight” of adjuncts is far more complex than the administrators bad/faculty good dichotomy that infuses your and many other comments on this issue.

      What inevitably gets left out is that there are substantial differences in the treatment of adjuncts according to the institutions in which they teach, beginning of course with the public-private divide but continuing through the various two-year, four-year, university entities that make up higher education. An adjunct teaching a continuing education course on a per-head basis at a community college doesn’t have much in common with similarly hard working full-time faculty member there, but that adjunct has even less in common with the part-timer who scores a course or two at a top-tier liberal arts college or a prestigious business or law school.

      There is also the conundrum that needs explaining to a lay public: how can someone so well educated and hardworking as the typical adjunct have no skills that might be more recognized and rewarded in another line of work? I think most people outside the academy wonder why an individual capable of full-time employment chooses a life of self-imposed penury cobbling together measly paychecks from a series of temporary gigs. Make no mistake: attempting to earn a livelihood as an adjunct is a choice. The institution doesn’t care whether its adjuncts stay or leave, because it can turn around tomorrow and replace them wholesale with others willing to take their place. This harsh reality belies the fact that adjuncts like to teach, enjoy the company of other faculty and students, and are drawn to the academic environment. None of that–none of it–matters. An adjunct might consider those things part of his job, but I assure the hiring authority does not. To expect otherwise is to open your heart to a whole lot of pain, and your wallet to a whole lot of empty.

      The idea that adjuncts and tenured or tenure-track faculty share common cause and stand united against the evil administration is naive at best. On most campuses with which I am familiar faculty have a great deal of say in the terms of their employment through governance. The faculty voice is also heard (and respected) on budgetary issues through advisory committees at the department, college and university levels. In other words, the faculty are deeply complicit in ensuring the adjunct system remains status quo. The math is actually pretty simple: start with the total compensation package of a tenured faculty member (and be sure to figure in all costs–insurance; tuition breaks for spawn and spouse; infrastructure costs such as heating, lighting and office space; sabbatical leave, travel, and research funds). Take that princely sum and divide it by the number of students the faculty member teaches annually. Do the same calculation for an adjunct and his stipend. Compare. Still feel the solidarity?

      The academic budget must cover the costs of staffing a number of courses sufficient to meet the needs of the students, and when the number of students exceeds the modest capacity of faculty who teach at most two courses a semester, then the institution is faced with a series of choices, none of them pretty. It can: 1) scale back on enrollment, which will lead to diminished tuition revenue, which will lead to budget cuts, which will lead in the most benign scenario to larger classes and a reduced selection of courses. Not acceptable to faculty used to teaching 11 or 12 students per class. So reducing enrollment is out. What other choice can the college make? Well, it could 2) shift faculty from one discipline to another to provide coverage where it is most urgently needed. Obviously, a non-starter. So next it could 3) leave staff positions unfilled and transfer the savings from the advising office or the library to the faculty budget. This will work for a while. So what’s left? Adjuncts. Cheap. Efficient. Commitment-free. Unless and until the funding model for higher ed changes this situation will endure. Please do not fool yourself into believing that the prime beneficiaries of this perverted system–full-time faculty–have any interest in giving up a piece of their pie so adjuncts don’t starve. It is not going to happen, no matter how many tenured colleagues tell you they are on your side.

      Finally, there is a huge difference between being fired and a contract not being renewed. What I find appalling in Madame Vojtko’s case is not that her contract was terminated, but that it was renewed for 25 years. This is a terrible precedent for both the institution and the adjunct.

  6. Wow! Who would of thunk that one short piece would bring out a cacophony of whining, righteous indignation and gratuitous sloganeering? I never realized the extent to which adjunct faculty suffered from severe self esteem issues. Not all of them, but judging by some of these soliloquies quite a few.

      • “That adjuncts work hard has never been in question, at least not in my mind.”
        Who knows what you really believe. Don’t you ever experience cognitive dissonance?

      • Occasionally. I think we all do from time to time. I write about in other posts, in fact. Thank you for your interest.

        As far as what I “really believe” about adjuncts, I recommend you read “Atque Inter Silvas Academi Quaerere Verum,” part of the adjunct archive. Or skim through other posts, because I talk about adjuncts quite a bit. I was one, you know, for about 14 years.

      • Occasionally?

        “At age 83, riddled with cancer, nobody should be looking for work.”

        “There is not one iota of obligation–morally, socially, legally–for an institution using contractors to provide them with anything beyond the provisions of the contract. Part-time employment by design does not provide a “living wage.”

        “Far better to overhaul the entire system…”

        “There is not one iota of obligation–morally, socially, legally–for an institution using contractors to provide them with anything beyond the provisions of the contract. Part-time employment by design does not provide a “living wage.”

        “I do find fault with Duquesne–for employing any adjunct for a quarter century. It’s an oxymoron that makes my head explode.”

        “There is not one iota of obligation–morally, socially, legally–for an institution using contractors to provide them with anything beyond the provisions of the contract. Part-time employment by design does not provide a “living wage.”

        I don’t expect you would give a consistent answer if asked in which direction was up.

      • Help me out here. As much as I adore having my own words quoted back to me (yum!), I fail to see the inconsistencies you believe you find in them.

        No sick 83-y-o should be working; they should be using their SS, Medicare and food stamp benefits; their so-called “beloved” family should attend to their welfare.

        Where is Dusquesne’s obligation? An adjunct’s contract–at least the agreements I am familiar with–specifies a payment in exchange for a service provided for a defined period of time, e.g., “one section of French 101 during Fall, 2012 semester.” Period. The institution’s obligations–and the adjunct’s–begin and end within those parameters.

        Do I think the current system stinks? Why, indeed I do. But the answer is most laughably not paying adjuncts a “living wage,” whatever that means. Full-time pay for part-time work? No. Just no. Unlike Ben Bernanke, most colleges and universities cannot simply print money when they need more. The pot of money, believe it not, is not inexhaustible.

        As long as the concerned parties 1) are happy with a system that privileges a handful of employees with lifetime employment and high salaries for low productivity in the classroom and 2) recognize that in order to have these birds of paradise strutting around campus they must be subsidized by cheap and easily replenished labor, adjuncts will remain the disposable commodities they already are. I understand perfectly well that for universities to exist they must make sure that serious scholars and scientists have the time and resources to conduct their research, and hence may give them them reduced or minimal teaching obligations. But this does not alter the fact that the system writ large is so bad that if one set out to create the very worst funding model for teaching he would be hard-pressed to come up with an idea as rotten as what we have. So–change it, all of it–not just one part.

        An institution that renews an agreement with a contractor for 25 years is either lazy, “trying to be nice,” stupid, or all three. You can bet in the wake of this Titanic disaster Duquesne’s policies will change. And the change you will see is that there will be limits on the number of times an adjunct’s contract can be renewed.

        Again, I ask, please let me know where my thesis is internally inconsistent. In your own words this time. Thanks!

      • The most obvious solution, that pay for adjunct faculty needs to be raised substantially to a living wage, you think is “laughable”.

        Duquesne, which you feel is above reproach, pays adjuncts $3500 a course, and this was raised to that by $1000 only since the majority of adjuncts signed union cards.
        At this rate, if adjuncts were to teach the same load as full time faculty, they would have an annual income matching the median income of those without a high school diploma. (I am for a living wage for those working without H.S. diplomas, as well.) If they taught 10 classes a year, which they are not allowed to do, and which is close to the upper limit for full-time faculty at any institution, they would make the equivalent of the median for those with Associates degrees. Of course, one is not considered qualified to teach college with an Associates degree. But this all seems to be fine with you.

        Perhaps I was wrong about you being inconsistent.
        I didn’t give full consideration to your embrace of mean-spiritedness, so I mistakenly thought there was a shred of sympathy for Margaret Mary’s plight in your piece. But now you’ve clarified that you think she should have been thrown to the curb much, much earlier. It’s my mistake for thinking that you are inconsistent. No, your views are purely rotten.

      • Please feel free to visit again, after you have completed a brush-up course in reading comprehension. Thank you for sharing your opinions, uninformed and ad hominem as they may be.

    • Wow, who would have thought that Social Darwinism was so alive and well.

      I’m not a professor, adjunct or otherwise. I am a worker, though, and I see Madam Vojtko’s story as representative of the objective conditions that the bottom half of society face every day.

      Madam Vojtko is called out for being one of the many “overqualified academics who refuse to face the reality of a buyer’s job market or look elsewhere for more gainful employment”. Please tell me where a woman of that age SHOULD seek gainful employment? Should she have hung out at the local Home Depot Parking lot hoping to find some roofing jobs and landscaping work?

      • At age 83, riddled with cancer, nobody should be looking for work. But it is interesting that you think a teaching job is a good choice for such an unfortunate soul. It speaks volumes and gives the lie to how hard we all know teachers work.

  7. Adjunct faculty work by choice. If they wanted a better job or a full time position, they can do a job search. The latest fad of part-time faculty is to hold on until they are carried out of the classroom. Students may love them, but infirm and elderly faculty are not helpful. How many faculty (full or part-time) actually retire in a timely fashion? Practically none. As a full-time faculty member, I took early retirement–and colleagues either scoffed at giving up the milk train or were astounded I could walk away.

  8. Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns and commented:
    Indubitably, activist adjunct and contingent faculty will be less than happy with how ‘Call me Miss’ views their actions with regard to Dr Vojtko. There is no way to know with certainty how she herself would have viewed: just opinions, speculation and more or less informed guesses. Whether you agree or not, this post more than any other I have reviewed tells us of the person who seems to have disappeared in the maelstrom. As someone who entered a doctoral program and then started college teaching on about the same timetable as Dr Vojtko – knowing that there was a life before this one. I find myself wondering about her life before then, how she came to this one and what else we might have in common besides the academic timetable, non-geographic demographics (aging, living alone, annual income, gender), multiple languages, etc.

    You can also agree or disagree with some points without agreeing or disagreeing with all of them. This is or at least should not be. the Kingdom of the Ants. Robert Craig Baum has been working on an memorial underway that I hope Mme Vojtko would have approved of… and CMM as well. Honoring a memory should not require complete agreement on either memory or missions.

  9. “Full-time pay for part-time work? No. Just no. Unlike Ben Bernanke, most colleges and universities cannot simply print money when they need more. The pot of money, believe it not, is not inexhaustible”

    No, but the pot of money is sitting in the hands of a tiny minority… It’s a lie that “there’s no money” in this country. There is a ****load of money… it’s just that WE don’t have it!

    • Since that “load of money” does not belong to me, I really don’t care about it. I imagine the same could be said of a college that tries to live within its budget.

  10. As I work for myself and have for the past 14 years (before that being voluntarily employed at companies) and having never been an adjunct to anything, are adjuncts forced to do the work they do? Have they no other alternative? Second, I noted that author of blog said that raging by analogy is ineffective and inaccurate but I think the analogy to car or home insurance to health insurance for pre existing conditions (making it not “insurance” anymore) is a good one. For instance, after your house burns down to the ground you cannot insure your house against fire and expect to have the insurance company rebuild your house. I know it’s off topic.

  11. In case anyone following and commenting on this thread is still or even more interested in the original subject of this post, here is a piece in today’s Post-Gazette about Mary Margaret Vojtko, the person:

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/margaret-mary-the-adjunct-professor-704756/

    …by Francis X. Caiazza, retired magistrate judge, who signed the legacy book with her obituary and whose wife, as private a person as Mme Vojtko, was her best friend.

    Let’s follow his example: “That’s a battle I’ll leave to the United Steelworkers and Duquesne University.”

    Thank you, Francis X. Caiazza. I hope someday I will be as well served and spoken for by a friend as Margaret Mary has been by you.

    • Thank you, Vanessa. I am very grateful you shared this article, which is a lovely tribute to Mme Vojtko and speaks to her personhood rather than her dubious symbolic value. I was delighted to find that the research I was able to do about her is confirmed by someone who knew her well. Again, my thanks.

  12. I taught as an adjunct for 25 years in Houston, and no one would hire me as a full professor because I did not have a doctorate. There are so many folk out there with doctorates one is lucky to get any college teaching position without one, So the question is, did Ms. Vojtko have one or not? I got out of teaching to something more lucrative for which I didn’t need a Ph.D. It was the only intelligent thing to do.

  13. I grew up just a few doors down from Ms Vojtko, as we called her. I knew her sister Ann and her brother Ed and their little beagle. When we were little, we would pick pears from the tree behind her house. I moved from the neighborhood back in 84 and moved to the West Coast and have since returned to the area. I don’t live in the same neighborhood but I still go to the same church that I was baptized in and my grandfather Paul C. Kazimer helped to build. He was a huge name in the Homestead and Slovak communites and Ms. Vojtko would come to my grandparents home and sit for hours in the dining room and listen to my grandfather’s stories of his time serving as Chairman for the Displaced Person’s Committee as well as many other organizations. I remember watching her take notes on what looked like stenography paper. As I got older, I didn’t see much of the three of them like I used to when I was little, as they had kept to themselves quite a bit and both of my grandparents had passed. The last time that I saw Ms. Vojtko was at Sunday morning mass about a year ago. I recently talked to a woman who attends my church and bought the home next door to my grandparents some years ago and she is the one who told me that Ms. Vojtko had passed recently. I googled her name and found all of the articles on her and my jaw literally dropped! I had no idea of the life that she was living.and if I had known, I know that she would have had electricity and heat. I know that if her church would have known, Fr. Dan Sweeney would have offered the shirt off of his back to help her or anyone in need. It’s such a tragedy that a woman of her stature, died so tragically and so distraught. I just thought I would share childhood memories of someone that I knew only as my neighbor. God rest her soul and I am glad that she is at peace now.

  14. Pingback: Hybrid Pedagogy | Pedagogy, Neoliberalism, and Academic Labor: a #digped Discussion

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