I had never heard of her until today.
I walked into the back room of the Woodson this morning and unexpectedly encountered these two large blue tubs:
They looked both unusual and promising. Inside I found the neatly arranged academic papers—class notes, papers, exam books—of Mary Fosselman, class of 1938. They had arrived on Friday while I was out of town. I was so excited I actually babbled a bit. One of the things I am constantly and deeply curious about is what was actually taught in various classes at Rice. It is, after all, at the very heart of our enterprise and yet it’s one of the wispiest things about our past—I’ve seen more than enough administrative memos, but I ordinarily only get passing glimpses of the matters that occupied so much of the attention of both students and teachers. A box like this is a window into the heart of the university.
To my astonishment the other box held her diaries, begun when she was fifteen and maintained faithfully and in detail for over twenty years. It’s as though Mary Fosselman walked in, sat down and decided to tell me everything she did at Rice and beyond.
I don’t know very much about her right now: she grew up on the east side, she was a pretty good student, she never married and she worked at Schlumberger for over forty years. There was only one photo in the box, taken at commencement in 1938. Mary is on the left, her friend Virginia Sprague on the right, and Margaret Millsaps in the middle.
Tucked inside the materials from her 50th reunion I found this note acknowledging her 1996 gift in memory of Virginia Sprague. I think it must have been sent by Mary Bixby in her first year as Executive Director of the Friends of Fondren.
I can’t express how much I’m relishing the prospect of getting to know this woman.
Bonus: How can leaves be falling already?
What’s the type of tree that’s shedding its leaves? Maybe it’s due to heat stress? The grass looks passably green, so it might not be water stress, unless those relatively young trees seen in the photo were planted without freeing container-bound roots.
They’re sycamores, I think. They seem fine—I know they’re well cared for—but they do lose their leaves fairly early. It just made me kind of wistful.
Sycamores do tend to start browning and shedding leaves early. They are used as street trees in West University Place (and in Palo Alto where I live now). I used to work a late shift at KTRU then ride home through West U. The sycamores give off a lovely scent at night after a hot day. Here where the days are seldom in the nineties, I only get a faint whiff of that nostalgic scent of the trees at night in the summer.