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Reflection by Mary Ellen Reilly

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Donna Hughes Home

Carlson Home

Mary Ellen Reilly Reflection

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I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about Eleanor M. Carlson, a wonderful benefactor of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Rhode Island. She was born in Jamaica, a Borough of Queens, in New York City on December 1, 1917. She was educated in Jamaica schools and received her B.A. from Hunter College and her M.A. in history from Columbia University. She was assistant director of the record room at Hartford Neuropsychiatric Institute, and office manager for the New York Heart Association. She spent almost 18 years as a Girl Scout executive, six years as title field director for Waterbury, Connecticut and its surrounding towns, and title executive director in Warwick, Rhode Island for eleven years. Her last 13 working years were spent in various positions at the University of Rhode Island Memorial Union, the campus student center.

She was active in various civic and professional organizations, including the Rhode Island Girl Scout Council, was past president and treasurer of the Business and Professional Women's Club of South County and its 1984 "Woman of the Year," served as chair and on various committees of the Rhode Island State Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, was a past member of the South Kingstown Planning Board, a member of the South Kingstown Board of Library Trustees, the town's Women's Commission, and the Women's Studies Council.

Eleanor's involvement in Women’s Studies began when a group of older women from the Senior-Swim program took a new course offering," Women and Aging." Later, she became active in our Women’s Studies Council and served as its treasurer. It was at the initial meeting of that group that Eleanor learned of the fundraising that I had initiated to find a donor for an endowed chair in Women's Studies; six months later, I was told of her intention to give us one million dollars. In the years following the announcement of her deferred gift, a life insurance policy naming the University of Rhode Island Foundation as its beneficiary, Eleanor was very involved with our program, attending lectures, potlucks, and other special events. Several years before her death, her health began to fail, but our friendship continued and I visited her regularly at her home. She died there on October 5, 1994.

On her resume, she described her interests and hobbies this way: People-all ages; Education-needed to perpetuate democracy; Gardening-good to see things grow; Sewing, knitting, crafts-helps creativeness; Reading; Swimming; Walking. Until her illness, Eleanor would be seen daily taking long walks with her dog, or working in the gardens around her home. Three times each week, you could find her swimming laps in the campus pool. She wanted future generations to benefit from the success that she and her husband Oscar had, so she established the four endowments for our program. She also left additional money in her will to set up another scholarship in Women’s Studies; the Program established it to recognize students who reflected qualities dear to her: community service and academic excellence; we named it the Eleanor M. Carlson Trust Scholarship. In addition to her generous gifts to our program and to the University, she left a substantial bequest to women’s athletics, and many local charities in South Kingstown. She was a truly remarkable woman and a dear friend.

Mary Ellen Reilly, Director of Women’s Studies

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