Learn how one family established a scholarship fund to celebrate the lasting impact the former educator had on her students and loved ones.
Tom wanted to find a way to honor the life of his loving wife Mary.
With help and support from his two sons, Tim and Jesse, the family established the Mary Lenhardt Memorial Scholarship Fund with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation in 2014 to celebrate the lasting impact the former educator had on her students and loved ones.
“Mom was passionate about teaching,” said Jesse. “She taught her students to think critically. When you make a difference in people's lives that truly makes a difference in the world. A scholarship would continue to support her students at Burnsville High School and continue her legacy of impacting students.”
“ When you make a difference in people's lives that truly makes a difference in the world.”
Jesse, Mary's son
Creating Future Educators
For 34 years Mary taught social studies, women’s history and U.S. Government at Burnsville High School, where she changed the lives and perspectives of many, including inspiring her students to go into teaching.
“My 17-year-old is a junior at Southwest high school,” Tim said. “I went into teacher conferences and into the history teacher’s room. As she talked about how well my daughter was doing, I looked around her room and noticed poster after poster I remembered from my mom’s classroom. I made a comment, like, ‘You know this reminds me of my mom. She taught history at Burnsville.’ And suddenly, her tone completely changed. She said, ‘Your mom is one of the main reasons that I got into teaching.’”
These experiences aren’t uncommon for Tom, Tim or Jesse. Mary had a passion for teaching social change. She was a champion of civil rights, women’s history and Native American history.
“I think she saw firsthand growing up in a segregated neighborhood in North Dakota and being a teacher in the early 1970s about what things were like,” Jesse said. “She would be the first to recognize problems or oppressions.”
“ This impact is part of the continuing tribute to Mary – a teacher, who made a difference, who repeatedly found creative ways to teach and to inspire.”
Tom, Mary’s husband
Changing the Way People Think
Mary also had a love for politics that started at an early age. When she was a teenager Seventeen magazine featured her writing, which included her political views. She even worked to have the voting age changed to 18. While in college, she protested the Vietnam War, which caused her to lose her scholarship at St. Catherine’s before heading to the University of North Dakota, where she graduated.
“She never stopped growing,” Tom said. “My world wasn't political when we met and fell in love, but I learned all about it and now I’m an advocate myself. I’ve picked up the reins.”
Since 2013, the scholarship fund has awarded $28,000 to a selection of Burnsville High School graduating seniors involved in government and politics, including classes and leadership programs.
“We feel the impact every year we meet each recipient leaving high school on the way to college,” said Tom. “This impact is part of the continuing tribute to Mary – a teacher, who made a difference, who repeatedly found creative ways to teach and to inspire. The testimonial of many students over the years tells this story.
By partnering with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, Tom, Tim and Jesse have been able to watch their fund grow and to see Mary’s legacy continue to touch the lives of students.
“I was impressed that the Foundation cared so much about what was really, in the grand scheme of things, a fairly modest fund,” said Jesse. “With the Foundation’s expertise and assistance, our hopes have been assured that this scholarship will be around forever.”
If you are interested in opening a scholarship fund or learning about other fund opportunities, contact a member of our Philanthropic Services team to support you in your giving priorities.
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