Supporting Tomorrow's Leaders
"I gave my parents that first dollar that I earned after college," says Mary (Josephine) Balagna, a 1953 graduate of Truman. After graduation, Mary borrowed $100 from her parents to tide her over until she received her first paycheck. When she paid them back, she included an additional crisp $1 bill representing the first dollar she earned.The crisp $1 bill remained in her mother's wallet until she passed away. Mary recognizes that without her parents' encouragement and support she would have not been able to attend Truman and then later teach. In their honor, Mary established the LMB Memorial Scholarship.
"I knew that I always wanted to be a teacher, but I did not know how I thought I was going to become one," Mary recalls. After graduating from high school, she had no plans to attend a four-year college. Her father, on the other hand, was passionate about his only child securing a college education. Mary's father, a self-educated man, worked hard on the family farm and mined coal. "I think he wanted me to go to college to make my life a little easier," Mary says. Her mother, who was not as vocal about the importance of education, encouraged Mary in her own way by sending her $2 every week to buy essentials while she was away at Truman.
"I did not have a single experience at Truman that was not a positive one," Mary says, reflecting back to her college days. She truly enjoyed every single one of her courses and professors, and she was especially fond of Dr. Nan Wade."There was so much zest in her lectures, and she made the books we read come to life," Mary says. She kept most, if not all, of her books from Dr.Wade's courses. Mary also stayed very involved at Truman as a member of Cardinal Key, Pi Kappa Sigma, Association of Childhood Education, and the Panhellenic Council. Today, Mary is impressed by the changes at Truman."I like that the University has branched out to become a leading school in other areas outside of education," Mary says."Truman has done a great job of keeping up with the times."
After graduating from Truman, Mary took her first job as a second-grade teacher at Monroe Elementary in Davenport, Iowa, where she taught for 36 years."Monroe was an equal opportunity educator," Mary says. "I attempted to educate every student that walked through my door."
Mary also made it her mission to give her students opportunities they would not normally have the chance to experience.When Charlotte's Web came to the Davenport theatre, Mary got balcony tickets for her class. After the play was over, she snuck her students on an "unofficial tour," knowing that many of them had never been to such an ornate theatre. The class was amazed by the chandelier.
When they returned to the classroom, Mary had the students draw pictures of their field trip. "Every single student included the chandelier!" Mary says. She is grateful that she was able to live her dream of becoming a teacher, and says, "In my parents' honor, I want to help someone realize their life's dream too."
In 2006, Mary established the LMB Memorial Scholarship to support students studying nursing, physical therapy, communication disorders, occupational therapy, and other areas of applied science. She chose to support these areas because of the great care her parents received from their nurses, doctors, and technicians.