Back in 2009, when current Keene State College seniors were starting to think about the new and exciting world of high school, Mary C. Leonard retired from KSC.

After her retirement, she went on to live for eight years before passing away in February 2017. Her service and dedication to KSC continues, even in death. Upon her passing, Leonard left an estate gift to KSC’s endowment association to establish two scholarships for KSC students.

Leonard’s name still lights up faces at the KSC Office of Disability Services (ODS). Director of Disability Services Jane Warner worked alongside Leonard during her 21 years at KSC. When interviewed, Warner pulled out a thick scrapbook. The book was full of pictures of Leonard with the ODS staff, her husband and other people she met throughout her life. “We were like her family here,” Warner said.

Warner said Leonard started in KSC’s Aspire program, but then came to ODS, where she coordinated alternative testing. Leonard went around campus and delivered exams to students and made sure professors delivered exams to ODS.

Warner described Leonard as a dedicated social butterfly. “She worked until I think she was in her 80s, so talk about somebody who was really dedicated to the college and its mission.”

Leonard and her husband had no children. Warner said she would work all day and then go to her home in Walpole, New Hampshire, to teach piano and voice for the remainder. “She was an excellent pianist, just beautiful,” she said.

Warner said, in Leonard’s eyes, her students were her children. “We used to joke that God didn’t give Mary children, but he gave her a whole heck of a lot of them when she started teaching piano.”

Warner said ODS is currently working out the details for Leonard’s scholarship. They are hoping to provide the scholarship by the spring.

An endowment fund is an investment where colleges get money to fund scholarships. Instead of the college paying out a scholarship once or twice to a couple of students; the bulk of the endowment is invested so it can grow and benefit students for many years.

Associate Vice President for Constituent Relations Rod Miller said Leonard developed the plans to establish the endowments in 2014.

He said she made one in her name and in her husband’s name.

The agreement Leonard made was that upon her passing, two payments from the money available in her estate would be equally split to establish two endowment funds. Miller said the title valued $200,000. “That money has gone into the Keene Endowment Association.”

The Keene Endowment Association is a non-profit 501-C3. Miller said the association is run by a mixture of alumni and community leaders who gather funds and invest them to benefit the college.

“They exist only to benefit the college through these endowments… Their principle responsibility is to keep the endowment growing and provide the condition of payout,” Miller said.

Miller said usually, the endowment starts paying-out to students a year after the association receives the funds.  That way, the principle will be kept intact and the fund will be able to grow even larger.

Miller said last year, KSC endowments paid-out 4.5 percent of their principle, which refers to the original sum of the endowment plus its earnings.

Miller said the Keene Endowment Association currently has a market value of eight million dollars invested.

Director of Strategic Engagement for the Alumni Center Marilyn Shriver said Leonard was smart about how she invested.

“One thing she also did before she passed away, while setting aside money for the endowed scholarship, but she also provided annual gifts so her scholarships could be awarded right away.”

Miller and Shriver both said Leonard was welcoming to conversations concerning the fund.

Miller said, “Even though we’ve only been here for three years and the endowment was established before, we took over some of the responsibility for maintaining contact with her and keeping her informed because she clearly loved Keene State College.”

Alex Fleming can be contacted at afleming@kscequinox.com