Maureen Behrs excited about traveling with SMWC group in Ireland

February 9th, 2010 | SMWC

For Maureen Behrs, wife of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College President David G. Behrs, part of the appeal of the upcoming trip to Ireland is the anticipation of sharing the experience with Woods alumnae and others.

Mrs. Behrs, who prefers to be called “Maureen,” said that because of her husband’s tenure as the 15th president of the College, her life has been enriched by all the opportunities to meet people who are warm and welcoming.

“I really enjoy hearing stories about The Woods. I’ve been very impressed with the alums that we’ve met and I’m inspired by their accomplishments. Everyone that we’ve had the chance to spend time with has been amazing,” she said. “I’m assuming that it will be the same kind of experience on the trip to Ireland. I’m very excited.”

Mrs. Behrs was in the fourth grade when she declared her intention to be a teacher. After almost 27 years of teaching first-grade, her enthusiasm hasn’t waned. “I love what I do. It’s always been that way,” she said. “After our daughters were between six- and eight-weeks old, I went back to work. There’s never been a question for me that teaching is what I was meant to do.”

Now those daughters, Beth, age 24, who is pursuing a career in film, and Emily, 17, who is in her senior year of high school, are involved in new explorations or on the verge of them. The same is true for Mrs. Behrs. The summer trip to Ireland will be a first-time experience for her. “I haven’t had the opportunity to travel outside of the United States,” she said. “For me, this trip will be a wonderful adventure!”

She’s no stranger, however, to luggage, travel, new places and cultural adaptation. Before Dr. Behrs was chosen in 2007 as the first lay man to be president of SMWC, his service in higher education meant the Behrs family lived in university communities on both the east and west coasts of the U.S.

Mrs. Behrs’ interest in other cultures also stems from her college experiences. She graduated in 1983 from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and began teaching that same year. “All my education courses were my favorites,” she recalled. Also, her study of Spanish and her college minor in multicultural education were a natural fit for her passion for teaching and her interest in people. She’s continued educating herself about a variety of cultures over the years “in order to be sensitive to my students’ needs.”

During her undergraduate college days, she tutored children of migrant workers whose parents harvested fruit in the area. In fact, a basket of peaches that the children gave to her played a role in her first date with David Behrs, who then was working on his master’s in counseling and student personnel.

While working as a waitress in a local restaurant near the college, she crossed paths with David Behrs. She declined his invitation to a party, explaining that she felt a little awkward about attending an event where she knew no one. But, a week or so later, he again issued an invitation, this time the offer of a bicycle ride. She was a woman without a bicycle, but she had fresh peaches, a gift from the children she tutored. Those peaches, accompanied by ice cream and conversation, launched a relationship.

Mrs. Behrs grew up with two sisters and one brother in a suburban area northwest of Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, who is now retired, taught 2nd through 8th grades in Catholic schools.  Although Mrs. Behrs has served as a religious education teacher on occasion, her professional teaching career has been served solely in public school systems.

First-grade is a very fulfilling time to be in young person’s experience, she said. “I love the magic that happens with that age!” That doesn’t mean that some days aren’t rougher than others. But the rewards of teaching reading and math concepts are indescribable, she said. “It’s just magical.”

As for her own reading preferences, Mrs. Behrs said, “I lately tend to read more for pleasure. I enjoy stories that have strong female characters and stories that deal with women’s issues and friendships.” One of her favorite popular authors is Maeve Binchy, who was born in Ireland and lives there still, in Dalkey, about 10 miles from Dublin — “I’m a huge fan of hers,” said Mrs. Behrs. She also enjoys books by Jodi Picoult and books in which faith traditions are central to the plot. 

High on Mrs. Behrs’ personal reading list at the moment is “Galway Bay” by SMWC alumna Mary Pat Kelly ‘67. Reading about Ireland and Irish-Americans and reading stories that are set in Ireland will continue to be pleasure-filled preparation for the upcoming trip, she said.

“I’m excited about the Ireland tour and I’m really looking forward to getting to know the people who will be sharing the experience with David and me,” she said.

Learn how you can join Maureen and David Behrs on their trip to Ireland.