Alumnae News & Highlights

Jean Mackenzie ‘65 is living proof that age should never be a barrier to achieving your dreams.

Mackenzie - the founder of Mackenzie Creamery, an award-winning goat cheese producer that’s been featured in Town & Country Magazine, The New York Times and Cleveland Magazine (hers was named “Best Goat Cheese in Northeast Ohio”) - attended HB for four years, from 5th through 8th grades, and often credits the school with helping make her what she is today.

“The education I received in those four years was so superior to what I received in my high school years - the stick-to-it-ness, thinking out of the box, creative thinking - that I carried it with me.”

Mackenzie’s early career was eclectic – she was a flight attendant on Air Force Two (the Vice Presidential jet, under Lyndon Johnson), an executive secretary in a law office, and a licensed real estate agent for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. It wasn’t until she took a Penn State cheese-making class on a 2007 vacation, though, that she discovered, at age 61, her true calling.

“It was like an epiphany,” she says of the immediate draw she felt to the art of goat-cheese-making. “I felt this tremendous sense of urgency that if I don’t do this now, I will never do it.”

So she learned all she could, developed and perfected her own chevre recipes, and started Mackenzie Creamery on the Hiram, Ohio farm where she and her “beau,” Jim – an architect - live. “It’s been eight years and we’re now distributed in 23 states,” says Mackenzie, whose most award-winning recipe is her cognac-fig chevre. “We have seven dairies milking for us, (and) our sales in December were 400% above last December’s sales.”

Her daughter Liz learned the craft from Mackenzie and has launched the Portland Creamery out in Oregon (she, too, has won numerous awards for her recipes). And her youngest son, Rob DeMuch, who joined Mackenzie Creamery in 2011 as a business manager, is now “running the company.” This, in turn, has allowed Mackenzie to pursue her next favorite pastime, weaving.

“All the things I love to do - they all have this rhythm,” says Mackenzie. “You can’t weave faster. Goats dry off the end of December (and) they don’t start giving milk again until February or March.

“I love the internet, and what did we do before smartphones? But there’s a pace to all of that that just is not natural. Working with dairies and seasons – it forces you into this rhythm, and it’s wonderful. It’s healthy.” And, as Mackenzie has proven, it can also be rewarding, too.

authored by Lisa Kroeger Murtha ’88

  • Distinguished Alumnae Award