Bridgehampton Hall of Fame Inductee Feels Blessed

"You always felt like you could make a difference"
Mary Anne Jules, Bridgehampton’s former A.D.

Mary Anne Jules, the former athletic director who is to be inducted into the Bridgehampton School’s Hall of Fame tomorrow evening, said recently from her home in Water Mill that she felt blessed to have been able to spend virtually her entire 32-year teaching, coaching, and administrative career there.

“I was out of college and subbing in Syracuse when my parents, who used to come out to Hampton Bays, learned that Bridgehampton was looking for a phys ed teacher. My mother said I should go for it. That it was a small school attracted me — I could teach everyone, from kindergarten through 12th grade. You’re on the floor one moment, acting like an airplane, and the next you’re with high school kids. . . . You know what, retirement is nice, but I miss the kids.”

“Bridgehampton was very close-knit,” she continued. “We were there to meet the needs of the kids. We all knew what was going on with them. You always felt like you could make a difference, whether it was a kindergartner or a senior. It was wonderful, it’s what makes teaching so worthwhile.” 

“And because it was a small school, we’d have to step up. I’ve subbed for the principal, I’ve cleaned the floors . . . which is fine. That’s what made it so great.”

The honoree, who played four sports at Baldwin High School and two at the State University at Cortland, saw to it early on in her tenure that Bridgehampton students, who before her arrival in 1982 had been limited to basketball and golf, could through a shared sports program she promoted play any of the sports offered by neighboring districts.

“It was one of the smallest schools in the state, and I thought there was no reason why the kids — there were maybe 160 or so in the whole school — couldn’t have the opportunity to play every sport, whatever they wanted.”

Her shared-sports effort — she became the school’s athletic director in 1991 — was the subject of a John Valenti column in Newsday on May 8, 1992, a column that made particular mention of Sandy McFarland, who has since been inducted into East Hampton’s and Bridgehampton’s Halls of Fame. 

“Sandy would not have had what she had without shared sports,” the former A.D. said. “It enabled her to run track at East Hampton and to get a full scholarship to Syracuse. . . . She’s a big success story. Like Nick Thomas, who’s coaching at Center Moriches. They both had difficult childhoods to overcome, and they did. Sandy [whom Jules had recommended for East Hampton’s Hall of Fame] held a relay record at Syracuse for a long time. It was broken, I think, either this year or last year. Like Nick, she impressed me not just as an athlete, but as a person. She’s the principal of a brand-new elementary school in North Carolina now.”

“Kids need to feel loved and safe,” the interviewee said. “ ‘What kind of kid are you? How can I help you?’ But as an educator you’ve got to include discipline too — there has to be that combination. You don’t want to do too much enabling.”

Jules’s list of professional honors is a long one. She is a past president of Section XI, the governing body for high school sports in Suffolk County, she has twice won Bridgehampton’s teacher of the year award, and she was Section XI’s athletic director of the year in 2014, the year of her retirement, the same year that she was cited by SCOPE Education Services for having been of outstanding service to her district.

Asked if she was still running — Jules has for years been a familiar sight along the highway in her neighborhood — she said she was, “though it’s hard to run fast anymore. . . . I’ve been running since I’ve been 12. I like going out for an hour’s jog — it clears the head. I run about six miles twice a week, four miles two times a week. Once a month, I’ll do seven or eight. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon once, in 1989, in 3:54. My memory’s not been very good lately, but I can remember that! My best half-marathon was 1:43.”

As for having been named to Bridgehampton’s Hall of Fame, “I feel humbled by it. I don’t feel like I did anything extraordinary, but I was devoted to my job. I did it the best I could.”

She was pleased, she added, to know that Bridgehampton, some of whose residents campaigned to have the school closed 25 or so years ago, would finally get the addition it deserved, including a new gym — the old undersize one, home to the nine-time-state-champion Killer Bees, having been deemed illegal when it came to playoff games. 

“We’ve had these plans for so long, since before I retired, waiting for the right time. It passed by a good margin — the community always comes together; when you need them they come out. There’ll be a cafeteria, new classrooms, a tech upgrade, new locker rooms, a fitness room . . . I used to have weights on the stage with a Universal machine, a treadmill, and a stationary bike. I did the best I could. The kids deserve it. I’m glad it’s happening. Finally we’ll be able to host playoff games and basketball tournaments. They’re going to break ground soon.”

In sum, said Jules, “I feel blessed. It was the perfect school for me.”