Mary Grace Stagno and her exceptional family

 

Meeting a polymath, a person excelling in several fields, such as science, the arts and mathematics, is a refreshing experience. But meeting a whole family of them is a thrill. 

When I started my chat with Mary Grace Stagno, I immediately felt I was about to discover an exceptional woman. I ended by appreciating also her remarkable multi-talented family. She held back since she feared she would seem to be showing off. I had to squeeze information from slight indiscretions hidden in her words. So, most of what you read here summarises the many different threads.

(Left to Right) Roberto, Milena, Mary Grace and Matteo

Mary Grace, 48, a senior accounts executive, married to Roberto for 21 years, has two children: Matteo, 18 and Milena, 17. The former is in his first year at University reading Mathematics and Statistics, while the latter is in her second year, Sixth Form at St Aloysius College, studying Mathematics and Physics.

Their interests are wide,’ was Mary Grace’s soft comment, so I asked her to amplify. The following trickled as if by drip irrigation. ‘Both children have a strong passion for chess.

Milena, female chess champion.

Milena is the female Malta Chess Champion, a title she holds jointly with another young lady, and both my children have participated in international chess tournaments abroad.’ Then came another surprise: ‘They are both football enthusiasts. Matteo only stopped playing quite recently. Milena still plays with the B’Kara female football team.

Milena (centre) in action

Both children have participated in maths competitions in Malta and abroad, such as Maths without Borders in Bulgaria. Matteo was one of the first kids to participate; he was just 12 when he was chosen to represent Malta and has attended for three years, each time obtaining excellent results. 

Matteo, third from right, front row, celebrating with colleagues their success in ‘Maths Without Borders’ in Bulgaria

Not just that! Milena is also very artistic and was recently part of the team who painted the backdrops for her school soirée. ‘She’s like me,’ Mary Grace notes mildly. ‘She tries to fit everything in her life. Matteo is competent, too, but, like his father, prefers not to overfill his plate. They are both great kids, and I am proud of them.

This time Roberto is not with a book in hand

Roberto is an IT manager and avid reader with a wide interest. He is always with a book in hand, except when he is watching football. He’s also a football coach for an under-17 team. He is self-disciplined, an excellent father, a determined doer, a most generous husband, and blessed with a heart of gold. He is a solid character who has always been my prop and strength in difficult and trying times.’

Mary Grace, too, is artistic. She still draws, though not as much as she would like to, and has carried this creative streak in her photography, where she feels attracted to record minute details and sweeping panoramic scenery. ‘I, too, am a maths aficionado. In reality, I love many subjects. I loved studying geography and languages, but maths is my favourite.’

Mary Grace’s poetic photo of Venice.
And a stunning close-up

I tried to tease out some of her interests, and she slowly came up with a list. ‘I love flower arranging and have produced several wedding floral arrangements. I also like handicraft such as ganutell, a Maltese art form of making artificial flowers from wire, thread, and beads. I have also worked on parchment embossing; it’s a fascinating craft. I did all my wedding souvenirs with embossed parchment. That was 21 years ago,’ Mary Grace added with a reminiscing look. 

Ganutell by Mary Grace for her wedding gown

All this reminded me of my long-time belief that all knowledge is one. Knowledge is kaleidoscopic, and each facet partakes of the one eternal reality. The haunting words of the great poet T.S. Eliot come to mind: ‘And the flower and the rose are one.

Asked if she still finds time to do so many different things, she quickly retorted. ‘Of course! When one wants to do something, there is always time for it. I am always on the go. I attend courses, organise reunions for classmates, and love travelling and cooking. The secret of multi-tasking is time management mixed with a large dose of   passionate impulse.’

But surely, she appreciates a lull! ‘Yes, I love relaxing in the countryside and gently sipping its tranquillity…the landscape scenery, the flowers. But it’s another way how to appreciate what is around us. It’s not exactly doing nothing.  I also love relaxing in my garden where I grow my flowers.’ 

Countryside and fresh air

So, I take it you prefer the country to the townscape. ‘I was born in the country and still live in the same countryside, away from the din. My children have grown in this life scenario, and so does my husband. I love the townscape, too. When we travel – and we try to do that regularly – it’s not just the countryside. Far from it!  Travelling is therapeutic for my body and spirit. I leave my worries and anxieties behind me.

I love relaxing in my garden where I grow my flowers.

Somehow, I could see in her a determined but not over-ambitious person. ‘You are right’, she said, nodding. ‘I am not ambitious, but I set goals and do my best to achieve them; for example, when I was 18, I started working. For several reasons, I did not pursue university studies. I always wanted to fill that gap. During COVID-19, I thought hard about it and decided to study for an ACCA degree. I knew it was tough, but my husband and children promised they would offer a helping hand in sharing some duties. I studied with determination and finished the course in January of this year.’ 

Mary Grace failed to mention that she completed her ACCA course in just three years, which is the shortest possible time. ‘I never took a break. Do you know how I soften the hard study regime? I always book a trip abroad for the day following an exam. That way, I look at the exam period as a bridge to cross to another country,’ she said with a broad smile. ‘I could not have managed without my husband’s support. He never grumbled and always handled all the shopping and errands, or drove the kids to appointments and activities.’

I asked her if her husband helped by cooking. Mary Grace stopped and shared a slight smile. ‘Do I have to say the truth?

 I understood. 

‘When I was 19, I joined the Island Hotels Group. I loved my work. I stopped twice when I was pregnant with my two children, but every time, I yearned to return to work. I worked in accounts in several hotels and then moved with the team of the CFO of that Group, which also included an administrative aspect, so I gained broader experience. In 2015, Corinthia acquired the Island Hotel Group, and I became a Corinthian. And another exciting adventure started. I took over accounting duties for different companies. My job entails mainly a series of reports leading to the preparation of financial statements. Reporting includes monthly management accounts or year-end financial statements. I also assist in the compilation of the consolidation reports. This profession is increasingly regulated and requires an ever-growing professional and demanding attitude. I am in continuous contact with all the finance departments of the Corinthia entities on several aspects

Now that I have acquired my ACCA degree, my work and duties will naturally increase. I am already being involved in new reporting, such as forecasting and budgeting. I love learning new tasks and am always eager to walk novel paths. 

‘Believe me, I always look forward to going to work. Work, for me, is a means of actuating myself. And in the process, I give all my best for a Company I have grown to respect.