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Aug. 5, 2014
Mary Eulalah Johnson Adwell has not forgotten the training she received at Northwest Missouri State University to prepare her for a library science and teaching career that spanned five decades.
“Not every girl got to go to school, but my parents were all for education,” said Adwell, who grew up on a farm near Ravenwood during the Great Depression. “Luckily, my parents prepared me, and we lived about 18 miles from Maryville, so the college was an opportunity. Northwest prepared me for a wonderful career.”
Adwell, who turns 94 in November, has made a sizable contribution annually to increase the award amount of a scholarship in her name. Jerry and Lynn Petty Adwell, Eulalah’s son and daughter-in-law, started an endowment, the Mary Eulalah Adwell Scholarship, in 2000 in honor of her 80th birthday.
While demonstrating a passion for the field of teaching and having involvement in scholastic and civic activities, recipients of the scholarship must be enrolled in Northwest’s elementary and early childhood program and be graduates of a Missouri high school located in Gentry or Nodaway counties. The scholarship assists one Northwest junior, senior or graduate student annually.
“When the scholarship was set up for my 80th birthday, that was something that was very important to me, and I have supported it as much as I can,” Adwell said, adding some of her former students have received the scholarship.”
Adwell began attending Northwest in 1938 when tuition was $18 per quarter, but she put her studies on hold after two years to teach in rural schools. During World War II, she taught a class of 45 first graders in Norfolk, Va.
Eventually, she returned to Missouri and married Don Adwell in 1946. With his support and encouragement, Adwell continued teaching while completing her Bachelor of Education degree in elementary education in 1948 at Northwest. After earning an associate degree in library science in 1956, the Adwell family moved to Oak Lawn, Ill., where she helped set up libraries in six elementary schools and later supervised all of the school district’s 10 libraries. She worked there for the next 24 years before returning to northwest Missouri to teach at Jefferson C-123 in Conception Junction. After 16 years at Jefferson, she retired from teaching in 1996 at age 75 and now resides in Austin, Minn.
Following his mother’s example, Jerry graduated from Northwest with a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science in 1972 and a Master of Science in agriculture in 1980 and retired last year after a successful career with Hormel Foods Corp in Austin, Minn. Eulalah’s daughter-in-law, Lynn, also is a Northwest alumna, having earned her Bachelor of Science in biology in 1973, and serves their church as a deacon in her retirement. Having first met at Northwest, Jerry and Lynn are Bearcat sweethearts.
Adwell proudly recalls teaching each of those first graders in Virginia how to read before the end of the school year. It was not an easy feat, she says, as she was allotted only four hours each day with the students because classrooms had to be shared during the war.
“The reason they learned to read is because we wrote our own material from our experiences,” she said, noting she learned the skill at Northwest. “The University prepared me for a job that I really enjoyed. I worked in the Chicago suburbs with many people from different colleges and universities, and I never ever had a moment of doubt that I wasn’t well trained.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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