Victoria Mars, Chairman of the Board of Mars, Inc. and a 1974 graduate, kicked off Foxcroft School’s first Reunion Weekend Alumnae Career Program April 15th with an engaging keynote address that combined memories of being homesick and snowed in at the girls’ boarding school with career advice that went beyond the tried and true.

“Find your passion,” she said, echoing counsel often offered to students. Acknowledging that one’s passion may not be immediately evident, she added, “Explore. Go places and do things that you have no idea about. And explore sideways, too, not just up. It’s important to go out and try a number of things until you find your true passion. . . . You are going to work a long time so do something you enjoy.”

Even in her one-company career, Mars did just that by exploring diverse aspects of the family business — working in marketing, learning finance, managing products from boats to candy bars — before eventually landing in an area she was passionate about, human resources. She went on to create and run Mars’ noted Ombudsman program before becoming Chairman of the Board several years ago.

“Finally, there were no more voices about going back to school or becoming a doctor,” she said. “I realized that I had wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people. As Ombudsman, I was able to do that in a different way.”

Showing compassion, being true to your ethics and values, doing whatever you do well and with passion, and always staying open to learning were the other key points Mars made.

”Take some risks, try new things,” she urged, “It’s not going to be easy. You will have to make choices and change routes. Sometimes you must step back and look at what you are doing.”

Following Mars’ talk, the 10 alumnae “panelists” who graduated between 5 and 37 years ago, introduced themselves and then split up into individual sessions with groups of 15-20 students. The women were an impressive group; representing fields ranging from nursing, marketing and event planning to biodefense analysis, environmental studies and investment banking.

Two back-to-back sessions offered the girls a chance to learn from two alumnae of their choice. Whether sharing tales of snorkeling in the Chesapeake Bay, as Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist Brooke Landry ’96 did, or talking about becoming a singing star on YouTube (Amanda Lee Bogart ’11), these accomplished women engaged and educated the girls for the next hour. And, perhaps, the day helped to begin some girls’ journeys to find their passions and embrace them.