A Most Constructive Joint Venture –
J.A. Morrissey and Vermont Works
Jeanne Morrissey: A New Vision of Do It Yourself
Jeanne Morrissey, president of the Williston-based construction company J.A. Morrissey, Inc., learned early on to build her own vision rather than trying to fit into someone else’s. “I don’t want to be part of a club that doesn’t want me in it,” declares the 51-year-old Morrissey, an innovative businesswoman in a male-dominated trade. “I got used to the fact that I couldn’t be part of Little League, because that’s just the way it was. I didn’t like it, but what are you going to do?”
A self-professed “sports nut,” Morrissey grew up in Burlington swimming and playing tennis, basketball, and baseball. She first discovered her ability to forge her own path during her freshman year at Rice Memorial High School. A new family had moved to town whose daughter played tennis, and the mom asked Morrissey when the Rice tennis season started.
“I just laughed,” Morrissey recalls. “I said, ‘We don’t even have a boys’ team!’ And she replied, ‘Well what do you need them for?’ So we started a girls’ tennis team and I played in that up until I left school.
“If something isn’t there for you, don’t fight with someone about it. Just do it yourself.”
Escapes and Earthen Dams
Learning that she could create her own way up and out gave Morrissey the courage to leave high school a year early to attend college. “I felt I was stuck in a very limited world, between [being in] Catholic school and being a woman,” she explains. Morrissey applied to the University of Vermont (UVM) and was admitted. (Eventually UVM applied the credit she earned in college English toward her missing high school credits so she could obtain her high school diploma.)
At UVM, Morrissey studied civil engineering, in part because it was the only major that fit her life plan. “I was going to build my house and sit in it and then decide what I was going to do,” she recalls. “I figured I could be many things in my lifetime but I had to take care of those fundamentals – food and shelter – first.”
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