By Taryn Hojlo

Many executives with distinguished careers in eldercare services can trace their earliest interest in the field to fond family memories. Count Margaret Lutze among them.

Lutze credits the close relationships she had with her grandparents as the foundation of her work in aging. A graduate of UMass Boston’s Management in Aging Services master’s program, she now serves as chief operating officer of the Good Shepherd Community Care hospice in Newton, Mass. She was recently honored with a Rising Star award at the 2019 McKnight’s Senior Living Women of Distinction ceremony.

But Lutze’s interest in the field goes far back, to those family memories and her high school years. As a senior, she spent her spring semester interning at a local nursing facility, helping staff organize activities and events for residents. After graduating from Tufts University with a sociology degree, Lutze quickly landed a job in aging services.

As a home care case manager at Mystic Valley Elder Services in Malden, Mass., she began her career visiting low-income elders in their homes. She coordinated and personalized the care of about 90 clients, ensuring each was given the chance to be cared for at home for as long as possible. Lutze found the work to be gratifying, especially at times when she was given the opportunity to help her clients arrange for hospice services.

Discussing end-of-life services was often devastating for clients and their loved ones, but she ultimately heard positive things about those services from families she helped. Over time, she became more interested in the field.

“The hospice philosophy really rang true to me,” said Lutze. “I didn’t think I would be able to handle talking about death all the time, but it worked out really well. I ended up falling in love with it.”

In 2003, Lutze accepted a position as coordinator of Outreach and Administration at Good Shepherd. She had also enrolled in the MAS program at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School and began taking classes.

“I had wanted to get a master’s degree for a while,” Lutze recalled. “I also knew that I wanted to keep working and I wanted something that was accommodating to a pretty demanding full-time job.”

The program helped Lutze gain important new knowledge and skills, creating the path toward management she desired.

“The management track really intrigued me. When I looked at the specific courses that were part of the program, I was like, ‘This is exactly what I need to learn. This is what I want to know.’”

Lutze also found a sense of belonging in a community of faculty and students who shared the same interests. “In high school and in college, I was always sort of the weirdo who was interested in working with the elderly,” she said. “So it was really exciting to be a part of a program where I was surrounded by other people who had that same passion.”

Lutze learned the basics of human resources, the physiology of aging, and even the nuts and bolts of financial management. “That was probably the hardest course for me,” she said. “When I started the program, I had no idea how to read a financial statement. I didn’t even know what a balance sheet was. But then I had a whole class on that.”

Now as chief operating officer at Good Shepherd, Lutze said she still regularly draws on the insights she gained from her coursework to make informed decisions affecting clients and employees alike.

Lutze was proud to be honored at the McKnight ceremony for her professional accomplishments. But she still considers completing her master’s degree as one of her major achievements.

“It was hard, going to work and school full-time,” she said. “But to this day, I feel like it’s one of the accomplishments I feel most proud of.”