Mary C. Petrella ’G57 Memorial Scholarship Fund for English Literature was established at the University of New Hampshire Foundation, Inc., through the generosity of
Ann T. Petrella, in memory of her sister, Mary C. Petrella.
Mary Petrella ’G57 always wanted to be a teacher, that was her dream, according to her sister Ann.
The two of them, Mary and Ann, were always together, save for a few years after Mary graduated from college. Born in West Warwick, R. I., they moved with their parents to Cranston. The family, and then the two sisters, lived there until about eight years ago, when Mary and Ann moved to a private, independent-living facility in Fall River, Mass.
“We lived together. We each had our own career. Our relationship was perfect,” recalls Ann with enthusiasm. “Our friends adopted each other.”
Mary earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island. Subsequently she taught high school in both Maine and New Hampshire. During the summers, she worked on earning her master’s degree in English at the University of New Hampshire. As a student at UNH, Mary was an active member of the Writer’s Conference and served as the group’s secretary. She completed her degree in 1957.
“Mary made it clear to me that she had many happy days at UNH,” says Ann. “It was a great time for her. That was when she got to know Robert P. Tristram Coffin and his family.” Coffin, who taught at the UNH Writers Conference, was a Pulitzer-prizing winning poet.
With degree in hand, Mary applied for and obtained a position at Warwick High School, where she made her mark teaching college preparatory students and drama. She fought and won the battle to teach J.D. Salinger’s new novel, The Catcher in the Rye. “She was way ahead of her times,” recalls Ann. After 30 years, Mary retired from teaching.
In January 2009, Mary passed away. Last winter, Ann contacted the University to establish the memorial fund in memory of her sister. The first scholarship from the fund will be awarded spring 2010.
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