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?