Remembering Mary-Alice

Editor’s note: VQ received several letters upon the passing of Mary-Alice Hunter ’38 in early December. Mary-Alice had served the college in several administrative capacities, most notably as director of financial aid for a decade and a half. After a brief retirement, she returned to work in the President’s Office under Virginia Smith and later Frances Fergusson, overseeing presidential events. Also an avid volunteer, she earned the 2003 Spirit of Vassar Award for her service to her alma mater. It’s clear, as these readers attest, that Mary-Alice made a difference in the lives of many she encountered at Vassar.

Mary Alice Hunter ’38
Mary Alice Hunter ’38

The recent death of Mary-Alice Hunter ’38 marked the end of a Vassar era and reminded all of us how indelibly she embodied an institutional commitment to service. It was my good fortune to work with Mary-Alice for a number of years in the 1990s during my tenure as assistant to the president. We became good friends. Although known for her gracious and ladylike manner, Mary-Alice Hunter relished life’s funnier sides, and quietly and often wryly noted, with sympathy, humor, and a raised eyebrow, the human eccentricities that came her way. Generous and thoughtful, she loved to have friends over for a drink at the end of a long day.  I can still hear her say, “Oh, Bob, don’t stint,” as I poured myself a drink.

Mary-Alice retired for the last time at the age of 83, having worked vigorously and effectively for so many decades—and then she continued her happy life until its final day.  Having touched many Vassar lives over a span of 75 years, she cheered all who knew her and she contributed significantly to the strengthening and enrichment of her college.

Robert Pounder
Professor Emeritus of Classics, New York

Mary-Alice was a treasure and Godsend to me—I was fortunate enough to have received financial aid, providing me with a top-quality Vassar education and the foundation for my life in so many ways. Mary-Alice reminded me while I was a student not to place limits on my goals because I didn’t have the financial resources to participate in off-campus opportunities. She said I should seek the opportunities and she would help me identify the resources. In her quiet, gentle, and loving way, Mary-Alice was my guardian angel during my Vassar years. About a year ago, Bob Pounder was kind enough to take me to visit Mary-Alice in her Poughkeepsie home. We had a wonderful visit. She was as kind and gentle as always, smiling and tending to an orchid I’d sent that was still flowering many months later. That’s how I’ll remember Mary-Alice always.

Paula Williams Madison ’74
Studio City, California

I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Mary-Alice Hunter '38. I worked with her and she was a kind and caring person, who contributed greatly my to experience of Vassar College. As a full scholarship student, she helped me obtain funds not just for my academic needs, but for social enrichment which she considered part of the Vassar experience. She will be greatly missed.

Sherry Sherrell ’74
Studio City, California 

A President’s Many Facets

Virginia Smith was an incredibly accomplished educator as noted in the obituary that appeared in the fall issue of the Quarterly. But one extraordinary accomplishment not mentioned was her 57-year relationship with Florence Oaks, who survived her.

Through a period in our history when same-sex couples were subject to disdain and far worse, Virginia Smith and Florence Oaks maintained the kind of long-lasting relationship that should inspire us all. How sad that this relationship had to be hidden for much of their lives together, but it's a sign of just how much the world has changed that such relationships can now be acknowledged and celebrated (although not yet legally recognized by our federal government).

On behalf of the Lesbian and Gay Alumnae/i of Vassar College I'd like to extend my condolences to Florence Oaks.  

Eric Marcus '80
New York, New York

Science at Work

Best of luck to Dr. Michelle Monje [“Ray of Hope," Fall 2010]. My five year-old daughter was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) on April 13 of last year. I pray that this research is rapidly successful in finding potential treatments and ultimately in finding the cure for this horrible disease. Especially, before it is too late for my daughter.

We have already watched in this same short nine months another local girl die from DIPG and have read of many others across the USA. It seems unreal that in 2011 your child could be given a diagnosis with virtually no chance at survival.

'Thank God that the research time, money, effort and true desire for a cure it going in this direction. 

Christy Steltenpohl
Lake View, Alabama

Documenting Resistance

I am a health teacher at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, New York.  I have been teaching about HIV/AIDS since 1984.  Randy Baron has spoken to my STARS (Students Teaching AIDS Reduction Strategies) peer education group a few years ago.  I was so pleased to see that this film was made about his story.

Congratulations to Alex Camilleri [Fall 2010 issue] for winning such a prestigious award! He must be a very talented young man.  

Laura Pietropaolo
Goshen, New York