Date: September 5, 2003
Eulogy delivered by Donald C. Howard, Associate Vice Chancellor, Dean of Students Emeritus University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth Holy Name Church, Fall River, Massachusetts
July 30, 2003
Dean Mary Louise Walsh was a remarkable woman. She lived a rernarkable life. She had so many unique gifts and qualities. A woman of bright intelligence, of character strong and true, she was willing to take on life with zest and courage. In living her life as she did, she was a model to us all. She showed us a woman who could be strong, independent, well traveled, and influential. She was kind, generous, sophisticated-from her dress-style to her manner to her mindset. She was a classy lady.
Born in Fall River, a graduate of the former Dominican Academy, Regis College and Boston University, Mary Louise proved she had a sharp intellect. She learned to speak French fluently and gained a better than passing acquaintance with other languages. She loved all things French. She acquired legendary status as a very skilled teacher at Somerset High School where, for 20 years, she taught French and English. During that time her intellectual faculties and teaching abilities won for her two of the most-prized academic fellowships in American higher education. In 1957, Mary Louise worked as an exchange teacher under the prestigious Fullbright Scholarship in Belgium. Five years later, as a Smith-Mundt Grantee, she ventured to Morocco for a year as a professor at the University of Rabat.
That brings us to 1966. It was a warm, sunny, beautiful August morning. I had just been hired by President Joseph Leo Driscoll to be the first Dean of Men at SMTI, Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute. He had informed me that he also had appointed a woman faculty member from the Foreign Language Department as the institution's first Dean of Women. (Later we were both promoted to Associate Deans of Students.) He had described her as an attractive woman with a head of flowing, prematurely gray-white hair. On that morning I was walking to my new off~ce located in the Group I complex when an automobile pulled up along side me. A striking woman of Dr. Driscoll's description rolled down the window and asked if I were Don Howard. I said, "Yes, and I presume you are Mary Louise Walsh." "I am," said she.
This introduction marked the beginning of what was to be one of the most meaningful, and life-expanding friendships of my existence. Little did she or I imagine what a wonderful and fulfilling mutual experience it would be.
For 21 years we worked side by side. Our primar,v mission, of course, was to employ the best of our knowledge, wisdom and concem toward the growth and development of the students entrusted to our care. As equally important, we needed to invent a new function within the institution. We realized that our new roles would require us to fill in, as the Latin phrase puts it, the tabula rasue, namely the "blank slates." With the collaboration of many fine colleagues and faculty, who like ourselves were new to this fledgling university-to-be, we shaped policies and practices at SMTI so that we could serve and administer to the specific needs and challenges of our students.
Though our Irish temperaments sometimes clashed, we always came together as a team. We had a genuine respect for one another and a deepening affection. Mary Louise was the first woman to hold an administrative position of rank. Her perspective and counsel in a heavily dominated male environment was both needed and highly respected. She always brought a constructive point of view and insight to deliberations of important committees dealing with tough issues. She can rightfully be remembered as one of the architects of the university's internal design. A few years after her retirement, the university bestowed upon her its highest honor-Doctor of Humane Letters.
Her extensive travels around the world took her to every continent except Antarctica. Knowing the value of cultural exchange, she founded the Mary Louise Walsh Scholarship Fund for Study Abroad to underwrite students who might seek to extend their studies in other countries.
She inspired so many to travel, not only to other countries, but to go beyond the known, and experience new possibilities. As one alumna said, "She encouraged us to have the courage to push ourselves."
Mary Louise served her community as well. She gave her time and talented efforts to numerous boards of major organizations, not only of Fall River but of the SouthCoast region. Among these many activities she was Vice President of the Dr. John C. Corrigan Foundation, and a member of the Executive Board of the Charlton Memorial Hospital.
Mary Louise Walsh-ground breaker, woman before her time, world traveler, teacher, mentor, scholar, dear friend to us all-my friend for 38 years. She was the 'big sister" I never had.
She was a woman of the spirit, of the heart. She saw clearly the true value of friendship and genuinely cared for people. Mary Louise touched the lives of friends all over the world. She knew that human friendships and relationships are the most essential part of living, and she lived life in just that way.
We will miss her. We will miss her advice, her love, her panache, her joie de vivre.