The University Record, November 15, 1999

Obituary

Mary H. Jarrett

Mary H. Jarrett, former director of fellowships at the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, died Nov. 2 at age 56. She retired from the University in 1995, when diabetes affected her sight and strength.

In the words of Machree Robinson, former assistant dean at Rackham, “Mary stood out as an administrator who could make the system work for the students.” Her tenure at Rackham was marked by expansion of the Graduate School’s involvement in the administration of University and national fellowship programs and, particularly, by the growth and development of what is now the Rackham Merit Fellowship Program.

James S. Jackson, former Rackham associate dean, commented, “Without the compassionate and committed leadership of Mary Jarrett, there would not have been an effective minority recruitment and fellowship program. Mary was the guiding light who not only provided the administration, but also gave counseling, support and, at times, career direction for minority students. Michigan’s recent success in recruiting, retaining and graduating large numbers of successful minority graduate students can be attributed to the early and sustained commitment and dedication during Mary’s tenure in Rackham to creating a more diverse graduate student population. Hundreds of Rackham graduates owe her a debt of gratitude and thanks for their current positions.”

Noted for her ability to deal with a wide variety of people, she could balance firmness with poise and humor. Students who first came to her for assistance with financial problems often valued her counsel on other matters. She was generous with her time to students and colleagues. As one student wrote to then-Dean Alfred Sussman: “There were numerous occasions, in fact, when I found her ready to help, with a suggestion, a bit of information or some requirement that needed to be taken care of.”

Again, a “non-traditional” woman student commented: “It is comforting to know that in a university as large as the University of Michigan there is someone who will take the time and make the effort to help women like myself who have special needs.”

Born in Washington, D.C., Mary was the daughter of Capt. Charles Littell, U.S. Army, who died in the Normandy invasion. When her mother, Helen, married Percy J. Smeltzer, Mary moved to northern Michigan and eventually became the older sister to six sisters and brothers.

After graduating from Frankfort High School in 1961, Mary studied at St. Mary’s College in Indiana. In later years, she often entertained friends and associates with reminiscences of the standards of “ladylike” dress and deportment still enforced in that era.

Following a summer at the U-M’s Summer Music Camp at Interlochen, she transferred to the School of Music in fall 1962. She was awarded a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1965, and was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi. For the next three years she taught vocal music, language arts and social studies in the Garden City Public Schools and then, as her family grew, she gave private lessons in voice and piano.

Like many women of her generation, her first permanent employment at the University, in 1977, was as a C4–senior secretary. Within a year she was promoted to a C5–principal secretary in the Dean’s Office. Her responsibilities included providing support for the Rackham Executive Board, the Rackham Board of Governors and other committees.

In 1979 she was appointed financial aid officer I, in charge of the Graduate School’s Fellowship Office. Her 1984 reclassification to “School Director of Financial Aid” noted that she was supervising a staff of four and a fellowships budget of more than $4 million.

Outside home and office, Mary brought her musical talents to the service of her community as music director and choirmaster of St. Thomas Church, organizer of the Thurston School Players and as a member of the Ann Arbor Cantata Singers.

She is survived by her former husband and good friend John Jarrett, daughters Andrea Shin and Mary Rebecca Frazier, two grandchildren, her mother and stepfather, and six brothers and sisters.

Memorial contributions may be made to the National Kidney Foundation, 2350 S. Huron Parkway, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

Submitted by the Graduate School