Philanthropist’s Gift Benefits Scholarship Fund

A $100,000 bequest from the late Lamar Louise Curry will help female students who are returning to the classroom.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 14, 2013) — Students who took Lamar Louise Curry’s American history class at Miami Senior High School learned everything there was to know about the United States—from the Civil War and crash of 1929 to the Great Depression and Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

“She taught [U.S. history] from the very beginning and got you very involved,” recalls Janet Festinger, Miami High Class of 1948 and one of Curry’s former students. “There were other teachers who taught the subject, but everyone wanted Lamar because we knew we’d get the best education we could.”

Curry, who taught at Miami High for more than 30 years, passed away last year at the age of 105, leaving behind a legacy of educating students.

Now, a bequest in Curry’s will is ensuring that her commitment to education lives on. Her $100,000 gift to the University of Miami Women’s Guild Endowed Scholarship Fund will help female students who had to put their college education on hold because of work, family obligations or other responsibilities.

The guild was organized in 1962 to promote good relations between the community and the University, with members serving as goodwill ambassadors.

Dozens of those members gathered at the BankUnited Center’s Hurricane 100 Room Oct. 7 for a luncheon honoring the memory of the woman who now has a Miami-Dade middle school named in her honor.

“Educating was in her DNA,” said Women’s Guild president Michelle “Mickey” Knecht, noting that Curry considered her greatest achievement to be the accomplishments of former students like Bob Graham, who went on to become governor of Florida and a U.S. Senator.

“She considered many former students her extended family,” said Knecht.

Born in Key West in 1906, Curry moved with her parents to Miami in 1916. She graduated from Miami Senior High in 1923, then Florida Southern College in 1927. She taught in the Miami-Dade County school system for 35 years, all but three of those years at her high school alma mater.

Curry, who was an active member in the Women’s Guild during its earliest days, died at her Coral Gables home on Dec. 3, 2012, eight days short of her 106th birthday.

“Lamar loved the Women’s Guild, and it was just her pleasure to make this gift to you,” Jack Admire, the attorney representing Curry’s estate, told members at the luncheon.

The guild was organized in 1962 to promote good relations between the community and the University, with members serving as goodwill ambassadors.

Former student Festinger, a Women’s Guild member, called Curry’s gift “significant.”

“It’s important that we don’t lose anyone’s good mind,” she said.

Two of the three students who are recipients of the Women’s Guild Endowed Scholarship attended the luncheon, including senior Jamie Knee, a film and motion pictures major at the UM School of Communication, who interrupted her college studies at Cal State Northridge 20 years ago to care for an ailing mother.

“It had always been my goal to return to school,” said Knee. “I’ve been fortunate career-wise, but without a degree, you can only go so far.”

Knee has been a flight attendant for eight years, working national and international routes to such destinations as New York, Chicago, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Haiti. “It’s not a traditional 9 to 5 work schedule, which is what actually allowed me to return to school,” she said.

She studies every chance she gets, even squeezing in a little book time during in-flight breaks. “My books are with me 24/7,” she said.

The scholarship has allowed her to cut back on her flight schedule and devote more time to her studies. “The University of Miami is the icing on the cake for a lifelong dream,” she said.

For junior Caroline Williams, an international studies and premed major, the Women’s Guild scholarship has allowed her to reduce her work schedule as well. She’s been able to concentrate on extracurricular activities such as a U Generations initiative aimed at improving the health of the elderly and raising awareness about conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Said Williams, “The scholarship has given me the boost I needed to realize I can achieve.”

Robert C. Jones Jr. can be reached at 305-284-1615.

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From left: Kyle Paige, senior development director of estate and gift planning, scholarship recipients Jamie Knee and Caroline Williams, and UM Women’s Guild President Michelle “Mickey” Knecht.

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