Skip to main content

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.

More Stories

Meet Four East Metro Main Street Grantees

Learn how funding from the East Metro Main Street Economic Revitalization Program is empowering nonprofits and businesses to serve their communities.

Learn More

Brick By Brick: Saint Paul Team Clinches Spot at National Robotics Competition

Capitol Hill Magnet School’s LEGO Llamas will show off their talents in STEM at the Florida Sunshine Invitational.

Watch the video

We’re Moving in 2025

In early 2025, the Foundation will relocate to Osborn370, a dynamic hub of innovation and diversity in downtown Saint Paul.

Learn More

Ensuring a Legacy of Literacy

Learn how one couple’s gift to The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library will support youth and their families for years to come.

Watch the video

Continuing Collaboration in 2024

Learn how the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation is working with community partners and welcoming new staff in this video.

Hear from Dr. Jolly

What Is a Community Foundation?

Learn how a community foundation works and can help you achieve your charitable goals in this short video.

Watch the video

Operationalizing Equity

Chief Operating Officer Nadege Souvenir discusses how the Foundation weaves equity into everything we do.

Learn More

2023: A Year of Collective Collaboration

2023 was a year of collaboration. See how partnerships led to aligned action in our 2023 year in review.

View Our 2023 Year In Review

GET MONTHLY STORIES, NEWS AND UPDATES

JOIN
US!

* Indicates a required field