Gothard announces retirement

Community Foundation of Jackson County Executive Director Mary Jo Gothard has announced plans to retire in December. In her seven years with the Community Foundation, Gothard developed relationships with many community members, shepherded scholarships and initiatives for Jackson County youth, and helped build the Foundation’s endowment funds for the future of Jackson County residents. 

“Mary Jo is like a master gardener. She surveys her landscape, identifies fertile fields, plants her seeds and cultivates the plots,” said Bob Osterhaus, one of the Foundation’s founding board members. “She admires, encourages and maintains the relationship to ensure a happy future for Jackson County.”

Osterhaus mentored Gothard throughout her years as executive director. “From the moment I started, Bob invited me to stop by the pharmacy whenever I was in Maquoketa,” said Gothard. “During our many visits, Bob taught me about the Foundation’s 30-year history and gave me ideas about reaching out to folks around the county. His knowledge of our community is priceless!”

Gothard helped guide the organization through its affiliation with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. Since that time, the Community Foundation of Jackson County has become the largest affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, doubling its assets from $5 million in 2012 to $10 million today.

Those assets are held mainly in endowment funds, which pay out annually as grants to nonprofits, scholarships for Jackson County students, and support for initiatives like Vision To Learn, the Jackson County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Summer Adventure enrichment program.  

“Watching students receive glasses for the first time thanks to the Kahler family’s Vision To Learn fund was emotional for me,” Gothard reflected. “I was grateful to be a part of it.”

Gothard also worked with community leaders to support large, public fundraising efforts. “Project funds like Together We Build, Maquoketa Ag Learning Center and the Maquoketa Community Cupboard will make a huge impact in Jackson County in years ahead,” she says. “It has been a pleasure to support these projects and see them become successful.” 

Highlights for Gothard include overseeing PBnJ Youth Philanthropy students, handing out scholarships at award ceremonies, and learning about Jackson County nonprofits through the Foundation’s grant process. She is proud of the team effort to digitize the Foundation’s scholarship and grant application processes, and the Foundation’s work to make Jackson County more inclusive. 

The relationships Gothard developed through her work with the Foundation, helping build trust and credibility with community members across the county, are her greatest point of pride. 

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the awesome Community Foundation of Jackson County board members over these seven years. They are a fun group of hardworking, thoughtful decision-makers who aren’t afraid of a challenge,” she says. “I’ve also enjoyed the support, learning and camaraderie with the staff at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and its seven other affiliate foundations, who have always encouraged my work in Jackson County.”

As she begins transitioning into retirement, Gothard will be reaching out to Foundation partners to offer updates. She’ll continue working to accomplish goals laid out within the board’s strategic plan, and will be educating area nonprofits about the Foundation’s shift from two grant cycles to one. “We encourage nonprofits to consider their 2021 funding needs and apply for a grant during our fall 2020 application process,” she explains. “In 2021, we will make grants in the fall for 2022 projects.” 

Gothard began her professional career with 12 years at John Deere Dubuque Works. She worked at Clarke College for 13 years and the National Mississippi River Museum for 10 years before joining the Community Foundation. “Working at the Foundation was a wonderful way to finish my career,” she said. “It’s been the icing on the cake of my 42 years of employment.”

In the new year, Gothard plans to spend more quality time with her family, including her son and two grandsons, six siblings, and friend Roger. She looks forward to enjoying the community and traveling. 

“We have been fortunate to have Mary Jo at the Foundation for seven years,” says Amy Manternach, vice president of finance and philanthropic services at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. “She’ll be hard to replace, but we look forward to furthering philanthropic efforts in Jackson County.”