As a descendant of the first female bank president in Indiana history, it’s possible that being conventional was never in the cards for Julie McCawley. After graduating from high school in the 1960s, she never imagined making a career with information technology, she said. “Women didn’t go into (computer sciences) back then,” McCawley explained.

As a descendant of the first female bank president in Indiana history, it’s possible that being conventional was never in the cards for Julie McCawley.

After graduating from high school in the 1960s, she never imagined making a career with information technology, she said. “Women didn’t go into (computer sciences) back then,” McCawley explained.

“It was either home economics or teaching.”

Although the great-great granddaughter of First National Bank of Columbus President Elizabeth Crump Lucas has some heavy-hitting ancestors, McCawley still doesn’t see herself worthy of being honored for a lifetime of contributions to her community.

So it was much to her surprise last month that the wife of retired newspaper editor and columnist Harry McCawley was named the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus award from Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus.

The award is in recognition of graduates who have accomplished outstanding achievements in their field of endeavor and who have made significant contributions that benefit their community, state, nation, or IUPUC.

While her husband is considered one of the most recognizable people in Bartholomew County, Julie McCawley admits she doesn’t enjoy the spotlight.

“I like to be low-profile,” she said. “In fact, I love to hide.”

With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that when Julie McCawley and Susan Tener found themselves co-directors of a public access television station in the 1970s, McCawley did her best to attend to business matters well behind the cameras and microphones.

But after the Video Action Center closed in 1981, McCawley could see more professional women entering the workplace. They encouraged her to set out to create a new career by enrolling in computer sciences classes at IUPUC, she said.

Although she initially found the technology intimidating, McCawley said former IUPUC administrator Paul Bippen and others managed to diminish fears by establishing a welcoming and encouraging campus for adults, she said.

“They gave me and others the ability to go back to school without paying an arm and a leg,” McCawley said. “I found out I loved (computer sciences), and I wouldn’t have gotten my four-year degree without them.”

Besides financial assistance and encouragement, McCawley also was impressed that most of her instructors had real-world experience in what they taught, she said.

While still taking classes, McCawley was hired by ICDS, the company that installed the first computer system for Bartholomew County government.

Then, in 1987, McCawley made some history of her own by becoming one of the first Columbus residents to earn a four-year degree at IUPUC.

After achieving that milestone, she worked for a number of state-of-the art information technology companies in Indianapolis with internationally-known corporate clients such as the Gap clothing stores, she said.

During the next 13 years, she was able to accumulate a substantial amount of real-world knowledge and experience in her field.

So much that after being hired by Reams Asset Management in Columbus in 2000, McCawley was able to determine what her employer needed to address its growing technological demands, said Reams president Dave McKinney.

McCawley not only upgraded the company’s information and communications equipment, but also developed a competent staff after being promoted to chief information officer, McKinney said.

As if that wasn’t enough, McCawley also stepped away from her keyboard long enough to start on-site yoga and exercise classes for her fellow employees, McKinney said.

“Julie was always up for the challenge,” McKinney said. “Her optimism was unfailing.”

But that was just her job.

Before retiring in 2013, McCawley also left her mark on several volunteer community efforts — including those that reflect a love of history that she shares with her husband.

Those efforts include:

Becoming a charter member of the IUPUC Alumni Board and Association.

Co-founding “Preserve To Enjoy,” a group that works to preserve historic homes.

Working with the Historical Downtown Neighborhood Alliance.

Assisting Tri Kappa in organizing the first children’s art show at The Commons.

Even in retirement, McCawley retains leadership positions with the Bartholomew County Library Associates, as well as Wildlife Utopia, an animal rehabilitation group.

Although fellow community leader Barb Garton described McCawley as an inspiration for her “kindness, generosity and big heart,” McCawley insists she doesn’t feel worthy of such accolades nor the honor bestowed upon her by IUPUC.

Instead, she says she just feels very lucky to live in a community like Columbus.

“In this city, it’s really about getting the right people willing to listen and help you do things,” McCawley said.

About Julie McCawley

Recipient: IUPUC Distinguished Alumnus Award

Employment: Retired, began a career at Reams Asset Management in 2000 and retired after 13 years after serving as chief information officer.

Education: Graduated from IUPUC in 1987

Memberships: Co-founded “Preserve to Enjoy” which works to preserve area historic homes, Historical Downtown Neighborhood Alliance which preserves, protects, promotes and improves historical downtown Columbus, Tri Kappa, charter member of the Columbus/Bartholomew Telecommunications Commission, board member of the Bartholomew County Library Associates, and a member of the council of Wildlife Utopia, an animal rehabilitation group. She is a charter member of the IUPUC Alumni Board and Association. She assisted in the development and chaired the IUPUC committee for an annual bike ride event that raises money for scholarships of what is now the Harvest Bicycle Boogie.

Family: Julie and husband Harry have adult son, Chris. Chris and wife Misty have four children, two who are currently students at IUPUC.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.