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Maureen Graham Raquet ’76 blazes trails for women in college, law enforcement, and juvenile detention

By Kevin Gray and Erin Ortolan

Occasionally, around the Christmas holiday, the phone in the office of Maureen Graham Raquet ’76 rings and a familiar voice is on the line. One of her former probation cases is checking in to let Raquet know she and her son are doing well.

“I had her when she was 14 years old,” says Raquet, executive director of the Montgomery County Youth Center in Jeffersonville, Pa. “She’s grown now and her son is 19. It’s always nice to hear from her.”

Knowing that one of her former charges found a better life means a great deal to Raquet. “It’s tough to see the family cycle of parents, children, and then grandchildren that are entering the criminal justice system,” she explains.

Raquet is the only female administrator of a detention center in Pennsylvania and the first female president of the Juvenile Detention Center Association of Pennsylvania (JDCAP), representing it and the state’s 22 juvenile detention centers nationally and among the other branches of the state juvenile justice system. Gov. Ed Rendell recently appointed her to the state’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

She oversees operations of a 48-bed co-ed residential facility where 10- to 18-year-olds live while awaiting juvenile court hearings. The detention center serves 1,000 at-risk youth annually.

Raquet’s history is filled with tackling intractable problems and breaking barriers. Her class was only the third at Lafayette to graduate women. “Lafayette empowered its first females,” she notes. “Anything we wanted to do in the way of sports or clubs, the administration said yes to.”

“When I graduated from Lafayette, the employment picture was pretty dim,” the psychology graduate says. “A local police department just outside Philadelphia, Lower Merion, was hiring. They had no females on the force and it was the beginning of the era when women were starting to make inroads in all types of male-dominated fields. I took the test, was hired, and was the only female on a 132-man force. I gravitated toward juvenile work within the police department and was trained as the juvenile investigator for my squad.”

While on the force, Raquet met her future husband, Bill, a detective who later served the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General as deputy chief of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. She took a position with the Montgomery County Juvenile Probation Department and considers it the best job she has ever had.

“The rewards were great in that you could work with children and families in the community, with the schools, and offer support and direction. The impact on their lives was tremendous and I loved it,” says Raquet, whose father, Bob Graham, and uncle, Tom Graham, a Pepper Prize winner, both graduated from Lafayette in 1949 with help from the G.I. Bill.

Raquet believes in the power of education. She received her master’s degree in 1989 from Shippensburg University in administration of justice and is an adjunct professor of criminal justice at West Chester University. She won the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission’s Outstanding Scholarship in Juvenile Justice Award.

Raquet believes her time at Lafayette aided her during her graduate school years and as a professional. “Obviously, the biggest similarity between my time at Lafayette and my professional career was being a woman in a normally male arena. I also think that when you are the first at something, you are able to mold it and change it and you are part of its evolution,” she says. “I also feel that the psychology curriculum opened up my eyes to human behavior and it was absolutely instrumental in my doing very well in graduate school. Having Lafayette on my resume has always been worthy of a comment.”

Raquet, who enjoys fishing, especially in the Florida Keys and Alaska, is also involved in a program called Chester County Futures, where she mentors a high school student who meets financial criteria and has been identified as academically worthy. She also serves as an occasional tour guide at Historic Pottsgrove Manor in Montgomery County, a pre-Revolutionary War mansion.

Years after graduation, she still finds ways to celebrate her Lafayette history.

“I work with several people who have gone to both Lafayette and Lehigh and the week before the football game, I go over to the juvenile court room and put a leopard picture on the public defender’s desk–he went to Lehigh.”

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