Mother’s Day Tribute: The Legacy of Co-founder Mary McGrory Stays Strong
McGrory Glass co-founder Mary McGrory often said, “And this too shall pass,” in difficult situations. Mary’s son Gary, who is now the company’s Vice President of Operations, frequently remembers her wise words.
“My mother’s advice always helped me realize that 99.9% of our daily problems are really finite issues,” Gary says. “As a team, we can navigate through any situation more easily by keeping her words in mind.”
Thirty-seven years ago, John and Mary McGrory founded our company, and seven of their ten children still work here today. We love to say, “Everyone here is family!”
This Mother’s Day, we would like to reflect on Mary’s legacy, and how her guiding influence as a strong woman and mother has remained a constant presence. Join us as we recall the hard work that built Mary’s very own version of the American dream for her children, and speak to the new generation of “McGrory Moms”.
John McGrory and Mary Rita Harley grew up in Philadelphia. They met as teenagers while he attended West Catholic High School for Boys and she attended West Catholic High School for Girls. What became McGrory Glass really began with their marriage in 1956. John and Mary went on to share 10 children and 25 grandchildren.
In the early 1980s, Mary worked as an executive assistant for General Electric, while John was general manager at a glass company. But in 1984, it was time for a change: the couple established McGrory Glass in Chester, PA, with fewer than 10 employees (many of them direct family members).
John and Mary, who still had children living at home, took a risk in starting a business from scratch — but believed strongly in the company and each other. Mary ran office operations as President of McGrory Glass, while John served as CFO.
Mary was the original “McGrory Mom.” In a time when it wasn’t anywhere near the norm, she became a full-time manufacturing executive – while raising a family.
The second generation of McGrorys have built on Mary’s legacy, and new employees who join the growing team benefit from that strong family-focused foundation.
“It’s not just us treating the employees as family,” Gary says. “Our culture is one where everybody’s ego takes a backseat to the greater good of their fellow employees. It’s something I see on a daily basis in our meetings and interactions. It’s how my parents started the company, and we try to continue that and honor their legacy every single day.”
A Close-Knit Culture
Thirty-year McGrory veteran Blake Whitcombe, who’s Director of Performance Products and Key Accounts, says that if John was the fabric of the company, Mary was the stitching that held everything together. “And as a mother she was fiercely loyal and protective of her family – and that included those of us who weren’t McGrorys by blood,” he says.
You’ll hear that sentiment echoed by many team members, from those who have been here a few months to those who have been here for decades.
Kim Eggert, Digital Marketing/Multimedia Content Manager, joined the company just 12 weeks ago. Having experienced a wide variety of workplace cultures, she’s happy to say that the “family-oriented culture” is more than just a buzzword at McGrory Glass.
“Although I’ve only been with the company a short while, from the moment I came on board, I felt welcomed as an integral part of the team,” she says.
Similarly Erin Bellis, an Architectural Sales Representative in the Performance Division, has only been a member of the McGrory team for five months but says it feels like so much longer.
“I’d heard by reputation that the McGrory family was kind and generous, but that’s an understatement,” Erin says. “The leadership team could not be more kind, humble and approachable. John and Mary’s children have created an environment that promotes mutual respect and collaboration. They’re intimately involved with day-to-day operations, and they lead by example. Employees really are treated like family here.”
Senior Project Manager Jessica Wagner, who’s been with the company for six years, also loves working at McGrory because of the family-first mindset.
“We’re not so large of a company that our bosses don’t know us,” Jessica says. “In fact, most of them know our spouses and children. We’re a close-knit group, which gives a level of support and understanding that’s hard to find.”
Administrative Professional and Receptionist Nancy McKendrick, who’s been with McGrory for seven years, agrees. “The McGrorys take care of their employees, and you can feel that,” she says. “They care about our well-being professionally and personally. You don’t have to have the last name to feel like family.”
‘It’ll Work Out’
McGrory Glass has always had an open door policy. “None of the offices have locks on them for this reason,” Gary says. “We encourage interaction as a way to work with each other, but also to feel the pulse of what’s going on around us in areas we may not be directly tied to on a daily basis.”
Blake recalls Mary as the “calming influence” in the room whenever there was a tough or heated situation. “Like family members we can disagree, argue, and get mad at each other from time to time but in the end, we always look out for each other,” he says. “Mary would say, ‘It’ll work out.’ A big part of our success is knowing the leadership team has your back. Even if you have personal struggles, the company is in your corner – supporting and encouraging you – like any family would.”
Erin recalls that after joining McGrory, she felt that her work/family balance returned so she could enjoy her children’s activities and events. “Our management team is accommodating toward family matters, which is important to me as a mother, and it motivates me to want to give back to them,” she says.
Similarly, Jessica says that when the unexpected comes up for her as a parent, she never has to worry that there won’t be a solution. “Any time off that I request gets approved right away,” she says. “When my husband’s National Guard unit was activated, my manager let me change my schedule to accommodate my son’s care, no questions asked.”
For the last two years, Lisa Rice, part of the Production Scheduling and Operations team, says that she’s enjoyed a work culture where everyone sincerely cares.
“Other companies are strictly concerned with business,” she says. “Here, my co-workers always check in with me to see how my daughter Sadie, who has a childhood anxiety disorder, is progressing and doing in school. I’m so happy to be a part of such a great work family!”
Senior Architectural Sales Consultant Bridget Lira also agrees that McGrory’s unique culture means a lot to her as a young mother.
“When I see any of the McGrorys, the first thing they ask is how my daughter Emma is,” she says. “They value family and are very understanding when anything happens to my daughter, since they know life with a toddler can be unpredictable. They truly understand that as a working mother, you face daily challenges, and work with me to make sure I’m staying focused on the important things.”
A Legacy for the Long Haul
Mary and John McGrory left their children a legacy they all take very seriously. “They set a high bar for us in terms of how you treat not only your employees, but also your customers, vendors and business partners,” Gary says.
Gary says that personal responsibility is one of Mary’s core leadership qualities that’s on his mind a lot. Leading by example, the McGrory siblings have inspired a solid work ethic in their team that they reward.
During COVID-19, times were definitely tougher than normal, but the McGrory Glass management team focused on supporting their staff while moving the business forward. “During the last year, there was so much left up in the air as far as being a mother and a professional,” Kim says. “The culture at McGrory has helped me to take care of all my home-life responsibilities as well as my work-life responsibilities without feeling like I’m overlooking either.”
Gary points out that Mary was extremely supportive of her children and the employees, provided they were applying themselves fully to the situation. “She had a way of seeing through less than adequate effort, and you quickly learned that in her presence,” he says. “I firmly believe personal responsibility is one of the lasting principles of our company, as well as each of our families.”
Emily Clayton, who’s HR Coordinator for Production, Planning and Procurement, embodies that spirit of accountability and growth. She started her career as a Production Administrator at another company. As part of that role, she conducted new hire orientations and assisted with other entry-level human resources tasks.
When she joined McGrory Glass, the same position was a perfect bridge between where she was and where she wanted to go – into more of a human resources role.
“I wasn’t sure if McGrory would be another stepping stone on the way to my ultimate career goal,” Emily says. “Instead, I’ve been able to grow by staying here, and I attribute a lot of that development to the company’s culture. They treat employees like family and part of that includes helping employees to really grow in their roles or evolve beyond them.”
Blake says that McGrory Glass has provided for his family for more than 30 years, and is thrilled to see the same happening for his son. Richard Whitcombe is now the Technical Director/ Senior Project Manager of the Fire-Rated & Performance Glass Division.
“We started with 20 employees, and that same close-knit culture remains now with over 150 staff – and growing,” says Blake. “Each one of us is a valued member of the McGrory team. Mary’s legacy of ‘family first’ lives on!”
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Family-owned for over 35 years, McGrory Glass is a national fabricator and distributor of security, fire-rated, and architectural, glass products. We offer comprehensive solutions across sectors.