We would like to thank Ms. Lynn Bresko ’82 and Mr. Tom Corrigan for their generous outright and planned gift to establish the Mary Corley Duffy Scholarship in Education, with the intention to provide full tuition for an undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a degree in the UNC Greensboro School of Education.
“Teachers have always been an important part of my life,” Tom says. “They were always people I admired growing up, and if I could live my life again I would probably be a teacher.”
When Tom retired from his career in journalism and communications, he began volunteering as a tutor for third graders in public schools in Greensboro, NC. He describes being able to witness teachers from an adult point of view and how impressed he was by them — at the same time, he was dismayed by all the obstacles that they faced. From her own work at UNCG in University Advancement, Lynn also understood the barriers to education posed by tuition and student debt. Tom and Lynn began a conversation about what they could do to help, which sparked the idea of creating a scholarship.
“We hope this scholarship will encourage students to become teachers by alleviating the financial burden, and graduate school with less or no debt,” Tom says. He and Lynn dedicated the scholarship to Tom’s grandmother, Mary Corley Duffy, to honor her memory and her foundational belief in the importance of education.
Tom’s grandmother Mary was born in 1896 and grew up in Binghamton, NY. She attended Binghamton High School for three years, where she was on the honor roll — but at age 18 she had to leave to take care of her family after her mother passed away.
Despite these obstacles, Mary returned to school shortly thereafter and graduated in 1914 with a degree in Latin scientific, the most difficult course of study offered. She loved learning and books, and is remembered as someone who persevered in school even after the interruption of her mother’s death and her increased family responsibilities.
Mary’s first job was as a dressmaker — she was a perfectionist who created something to last. She and her brother James would go to New York, her favorite city, and spend hours going through stores and looking at material to be made into clothing. Later, she became a stenographer, another detail-oriented job. Family lore says that she met her future husband, John F. Duffy, while teaching at the International Correspondence School in Scranton.
“She had a lot of respect for education, not just because it could get you a better job, but because education has value in and of itself,” Tom says.
Tom and Lynn knew they wanted to create a scholarship, and one of the many reasons why they decided to establish it at UNCG is because of Lynn’s ties to the university. Lynn graduated from UNCG with a degree in communications in 1982, and later worked in development for the university for many years and is now a retiree.
“UNCG changed my wife’s life — she feels a great deal of loyalty and is very proud to be a graduate,” Tom says.
Lynn describes how fortunate she was that her parents were able to pay for her college education, but she remembers being a student at UNCG and seeing others who didn’t have the same luxury. It made her recognize the importance of scholarships, and added to the inspiration of creating her own. In addition to the Mary Corley Duffy scholarship, Tom and Lynn also have a previously established endowed scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“I also was inspired by the donors that I worked with, and just how much joy they got from being able to give back in a way that changes lives,” Lynn says. “We decided we wanted to do that as well.”