Betty Lynch: A Pioneer With a Heart
Betty Lynch '74 never envisioned herself becoming a pioneer when she was growing up on a farm in rural Redding, Connecticut but she would become the first member of her family to graduate from college, and as a successful business leader, she would spearhead the way to help break the proverbial glass ceiling for women in the corporate world.
Her odyssey as a college student in the early 1970s wasn't ordinary; Lynch's years in higher education came nearly two decades after high school and as married mother of one. She first learned about Sacred Heart University, which was still in its infancy in the early 1970s, through an advertisement on the radio when she was employed as a teller at a local bank. Lynch, who now calls Avondale, Arizona home, recently recalled that she knew if she wanted to grow in her career, she would have to make the quantum leap back to school.
During Lynch's tenure at Sacred Heart, she took every opportunity to enrich her mind, stretch her imagination and heighten her professional life. She quickly became enamored with the academic life that the University offered and formed deep and lasting connections with her classmates and the institution.
Classes offered her forums for deep discussions as well as rigorous academics in which Lynch thrived, and she fondly remembers bringing her young daughter Cindy, who died in 2006 from Crohn's Disease, to school. "Cindy raised her hand as often as I did," remembered Lynch with a soft laugh.
Balancing work, family life and academics, Lynch matriculated in just three years with Summa Cum Laude honors, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and a minor in Business Administration. Later, she would return to Sacred Heart to earn a Master of Business Administration in Finance.
In between, Lynch saw a meteoric rise in her career and would hold various senior positions at banks throughout Connecticut. "Growing up poor in Redding and watching my father work at his roadside farm stand, I learned about the importance of a strong work ethic, something that was also always underscored by my professors at Sacred Heart," Lynch explained. "I used everything I learned at the school and applied it to my career. Hard work was always impressed upon us but in a fun and very loving way."
In 1997, Lynch relocated to Arizona and set up a new life in the community of Avondale. Just as she was leader in various roles in her home state and has a thirst for helping others, Lynch quickly became immersed in Avondale, and was elected to two terms as a council member and then as vice mayor from 2000 to 2008.
Today, Lynch serves on several municipal and state boards and commissions and contributes to many not-for-profit organizations, and is a graduate of Leadership West, a civic organization that fosters active citizen leaders. Further, she co-founded the West Valley Human Services Alliance in 2005 following a needs study and a request to MAG from the city managers in the West Valley.
With all of her generosity of time, spirit and mind, Lynch wants to continue her rich legacy of giving to Sacred Heart University and is bequeathing part of her estate to Sacred Heart to establish an endowed scholarship in her daughter's name benefiting a student majoring in Criminal Justice.
"One day I realized how much I loved Sacred Heart, what it did for me, and how much I still talked about it, and I wanted to find a way where I could still have an impact on its future," she said.
What are Lynch's hopes for Sacred Heart University and the thousands of students who will spend countless hours forging their future?
Lynch says in addition to acquiring a ‘technical education,' she says parlaying the skills that Sacred Heart underscores such as living one's faith and serving the community for the greater good is equally as vital to leaving the world a better place.
"(People) need to hold onto and practice their faith, no matter what it is. Faith leads you in a multitude of directions... I used to tell my peers at Sacred Heart University: 'Believe in yourself, be the best you can be, and to find happiness even in the rain,'" she said.
Lynch's trajectory throughout her life -- as student, mother, business and community leader -- was to help shape lives and to inspire and to help people realize their full potential.
Rich in optimism and boundless energy, Lynch's quest for helping others and enriching her community continues today, but she admits she's had moments of darkness in her life. From the loss of her father, who died when she was 19 and the passing of her daughter Cindy.
But she has taken those difficult times in her life as opportunities to make herself stronger, and has retained her commitment to her love for life, and to leaving behind a better community/workplace/university than when she arrived.
"I want to be sure that Sacred Heart continues its commitment to volunteering," Lynch said, "because helping others and having an impact is part of the learning experience. I remember talking to someone about my life and how I could pass on my experiences and what I learned after I was gone, and she said to me, you're always talking about Sacred Heart University and all the good things you experienced there and how much [Sacred Heart] impacted you. That was the eureka moment when I realized I needed to pass on something to the future generations of Sacred Heart and planned giving was the way I could reach young people, pass it on and continue my legacy" said Lynch.