Each time Mary John Smith, now an attorney in Charlottesville, Virginia, visits her childhood home in Coffee County, Alabama, she is reminded of the widespread and lasting impact her mother had there as an elementary school teacher. "Strangers often approach me with the statement, ‘You don't know me but I know you, your mother taught me in second grade.'" Mary John further noted that her mother was a well-liked person in the community "because she cared so much about the education of the community's children."
Mary John's mother, Claudie L. Smith, was born in Covington County in 1913. She graduated from the then-Troy State Teacher's College in the 1930s and spent the next 40 years teaching little children, starting in a one-room school house in the Pine Level Community in Coffee County and concluding her career in 1975 as a middle school teacher in the Elba City Schools. She died in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2007 at age 93.
In honor of her mother's legacy and dedication as a teacher, Mary John has made a planned estate gift to endow a scholarship for TROY students who wish to major in elementary education. "A perpetual scholarship seemed to me a fitting tribute to my mother's passion for teaching and to the education that she got at TROY," Mary John said. A small academic scholarship and a $50 loan from a brother-in-law enabled Mrs. Smith to enroll in TROY during the Great Depression and to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. Mary John said her mother always described her teaching career as the fulfillment of a life-long dream. "I'd like to see other young people have the chance to chase their dreams as well. Hopefully, this scholarship can help some young people get a leg up on life. Sometimes that is all any of us needs."
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