Marcia Burick: Remembering Mary Maples Dunn as ‘townie’

Published: 3/22/2017 9:02:51 PM
Remembering ‘townie’ Mary Maples Dunn

Last week at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in Northampton, several people at our table mentioned how Mary Maples Dunn, as president of Smith College from 1985 to 1995, loved to be part of that community event. She always gathered one or two tables of colleagues, and joyously and humorously participated in the roasting and toasting of the day, honoring both her own heritage and the leaders of the city she now called home.

The breakfast was just a few days before we learned that she passed away Sunday. Mary is being remembered by her academic colleagues as an outstanding and innovative leader and a scholar of colonial history and Women’s Studies. But I’d like to write a few words about her role in Northampton, where she jumped right in as an enthusiastic “townie.”

During her tenure at Smith, Mary served actively in her inherited role as chair of the board for the Academy of Music, working hard to keep public and private funding in place at a time of physical needs and financial challenges.

She also chaired the United Way campaign, hosted fundraisers for Cooley Dickinson Hospital, sent her top staff to meetings on increasing handicapped accessibility in town, as well as on campus, and participated actively in discussions on the future disposition of the Northampton State Hospital buildings and grounds.

Mary was a strong advocate for the Northampton-Smith internship program that brought many benefits to a number of local government offices and nonprofits. She willingly met with and hosted various federal and state funders from Boston and Washington to testify about the need for community development grants to the city, and supported an innovative joint town-college program that benefited lower income Ada Comstock scholars who had children, as well as other mothers in the Northampton community.

Like her predecessor, Jill Ker Conway, Mary realized that the term “town-gown” was both an organic and dynamic relationship, and each depended on and benefited from the other’s strengths.

We have a lot to thank her for, and remember her with joy and gratitude.

Marcia Burick


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