The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth today announced the creation of a scholarship fund in the name of the late Fall River state Senator Mary Fonseca. The announcement was made at the UMass Dartmouth Library where Senator Fonseca's personal papers are archived.
Irene Fonseca, the senator's daughter, said, "Establishing the scholarship in my mother's memory was not a difficult decision to make. This university was important to her. She fought long and hard to establish it here, and the university was always very gracious to her over the years. This was a matter of mutual respect for my mother and the university."
"It is an honor for UMass Dartmouth to establish this scholarship in the name of Mary Fonseca, a skilled and passionate advocate for the people of this region and this university, and a trailblazer for women interested in public service," UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack said.
"Senator Fonseca certainly paved the way for me and for other women serving in leadership positions," added Senator Joan M. Menard, D-Fall River, who was the first woman appointed to a leadership position in the House of Representatives and who now represents the same senate district as Fonseca. "This scholarship will allow Mary Fonseca's legacy to live on, and will hopefully encourage future generations of SouthCoast women and UMass Dartmouth alums to enter into public life."
Rep. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, whose district includes sections of Fall River, said, "As a Portuguese-American legislator, a citizen of the SouthCoast and an alumnus of UMass Dartmouth, I am grateful for the example that Senator Fonseca has left through her life of public service. She was a great advocate of our people and our university."
Senator Fonseca was the first woman of Portuguese-American descent to be elected a state senator, and the first woman to hold a leadership position in the state Senate. From 1973 to 1984 she held the position of first assistant majority leader. She was an early and unwavering supporter of establishing the university campus in Dartmouth and a strong advocate of funding for public education, from elementary sschool through college.
Senator Fonseca was also known from Beacon Hill to her hometown for the colorful hats she would wear. Several of those hats, along with many photos documenting her career, were on display today at a reception to celebrate the scholarship gift.
The purpose of the scholarship fund will be to support incoming freshmen at the university who are residents of Fall River, especially female students with high academic achievement at their high schools who plan to major in political science or one of the liberal arts at UMass Dartmouth. Financial need, extracurricular leadership and service to the community will also be taken into consideration by the scholarship committee.