dcsimg Mary Beth Bonaventura '76
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The Honorable Mary Beth Bonaventura '76

Mary Beth Bonaventura

The Advocate

Bonaventura (shown below with her son, Sunny) serves as director of child services for the State of Indiana.

Bonaventura with son

"In life, you have to be open to new things and explore what might be a good fit. I always pray that the Lord lets me know how to follow."

When Governor Mike Pence called Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura asking her to leave her job as senior judge of the Lake Superior Court, Juvenile Division, to become director of child services for the State of Indiana, she initially declined. She loved her job. She declined the second and third time, too. But, when the then governorelect reached out to her again, Bonaventura took it as a sign and decided that it was time for a new challenge.

So, after more than 30 years serving as a magistrate and then judge in the juvenile courts of Lake County, Bonaventura moved to Indianapolis to take on the Department of Child Services (DCS), a department that in 2013 alone received 156,192 phone calls to the child abuse hotline and collected nearly one billion dollars in child support. The mission for the department is both daunting and immensely important: protect children from child abuse and neglect, and work to ensure their financial support. Of course, Bonaventura has never been one to back down from a challenge. At 26, she became one of the youngest magistrates in the state, overseeing a juvenile court for more than a decade. She has been appointed positions by two different governors of two different political parties; the first happened in 1993, when then Governor Evan Bayh, a democrat, appointed her a judgeship in Lake County. Nearly 20 years later, Bonaventura was appointed to her current position, director of DCS, by Governor Mike Pence, a republican. Her appointments by two different governors of different political parties and her years of service on the bench, speak to her dedication to children and others’ recognition of that dedication.

“The work we do in the juvenile court and in child services is so important. You have to put families back together when they fall apart,” said Bonaventura. “We have to make sure we stay true to our mission to protect children, and sometimes that means making the difficult decision to remove children from the home.”

While Bonaventura has spent her career protecting children, in 1996, her mission became personal when an 11-year-old boy walked into her courtroom as a runaway and needed someone. His name, Sunny, matched his personality perfectly, and it was love at first sight. In the years to come, Sunny drastically changed Bonaventura’s life. Having worked very long hours and served on several boards outside of her work as a judge, Sunny slowed down her life in the best way. She stopped working every evening and spent her nights with her husband, Keith Medved, and their adopted son, eating dinner, working on homework, being a family.

When she speaks of him, you instantly understand what an amazing young man he was and the incredible bond they shared. Tragically, on November 16, 2012, at the age of 28, Sunny passed away from complications of typhoid fever. But his spirit lives on in Bonaventura and the important job she does: working to ensure all children thrive in safe, caring, supportive families and communities.

“When all is said and done, it’s about helping people,” said Bonaventura. In fact, she’s made a career of it.

Bonaventura’s connection to Marian University remains strong. Not only does she serve as a trustee, but this May, she delivered the commencement address at the 77th annual Commencement ceremony, where she received an honorary doctor of arts and humane letters degree.

© 2012 Marian University
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