Shortly before she died at 92 last year, Kay Grimes ’40 received an invitation to meet the USJ student who had been awarded the scholarship Kay endowed. Her daughter, Susan, with whom she was living, quickly called back, “I’m afraid she’s not coming.”
But on the appointed day, Kay haltingly walked into the event. She had prevailed over her daughter to return once more to the University, where she had been in the first class to attend the “new” two-building college in the late 1930s.
Another daughter, Mary Grimes Parent ’71, said her mother felt fortunate to attend Saint Joseph during the Depression. “There was always a feeling from her that it was a fabulous experience that opened the door — the opportunities she had and where she took it.” Kay’s father firmly believed his only child needed to go to college. “She credited him with having a vision,” Mary Parent recalled.
Kay went on to become director of dietetics at St. Francis Hospital, retiring in 1986. When she died in November 2011, her family was comforted by the outpouring at the wake. Mary remembers what people said about her mother: “She hired me for my first job.” “She mentored me.” “She gave me a scholarship.”
That scholarship began after Kay’s retirement, when she was paid a small stipend to help young mothers at St. Agnes Home learn about nutrition for themselves and their newborns. “She began adding to it,” said Karen Hoke ’95, major gifts officer in Institutional Advancement, “sometimes $25, sometimes $300. She built it up bit by bit.” Soon, the Catherine M. Grimes ’40 Scholarship began helping students in Dietetics and Nutrition.
Kay’s daughter, Mary, followed her mother to USJ in the tumultuous late ’60s and early ’70s. Saint Joe’s wasn’t forced on her, Mary said, but it was a good fit for her to study home economics. She and her siblings had come here often as children. “It was such a part of her life, it was a part of ours, too.”
Mary’s college years, like her mother’s, drew her to a core group of friends she still sees today. Looking back, she laughs about the ways her class pushed the rules and challenged the existing order: “Maybe it was the demeanor of the times.”
Later, Mary and her mother would agree the Sisters of Mercy were “really amazing. The nuns were very enlightened.” Mary said they enjoyed being part of the USJ community — “a passionate core of people who are proud to be associated with it.” Yet Mary says she also appreciates how the original vision of the Sisters led to the opening of a School of Pharmacy in downtown Hartford and to online programs. “It is a very alive entity in 2012,” she said.
Her own career took her into teaching and work as a paraprofessional. She’s now working in a program she helped design, which prepares special education students to go to vocational high school.
Her mother’s legacy at USJ lives on. Every year the student who receives the scholarship writes a thank-you letter. This year, Mary heard from a student who wants to get a master’s degree, then work to improve nutrition in the developing world. “I think my mother would have been thrilled,” Mary said.