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‘Givers of the world’

Celebrating 25 years of student support by the Fry Family Foundation

Campus and Community

By Lisa Pendergast

What if writing a letter could lead to a life-changing impact on the lives of more than 1,000 Memorial students and future leaders?

Would you write it?

Dr. Darryl Fry (Dip.Eng.’59, B.Sc.’59, LLD’97) did.

From reflection to action

In 1996, Dr. Fry was chairman and CEO of Cytec Industries Inc., a global specialty chemicals and materials technology company.

As he reflects on his life and good fortune, he revisits his childhood in Newfoundland and Labrador and education at Memorial University.

“My mother painted higher education as a gateway to the world,” said Dr. Fry. “There was no question about me going to Memorial University.”

The people who taught him, both in school and in life, made him the person he is today, he says. He wanted to pay it forward.

In the time it took him to write a letter, speak with legal counsel and discuss it with his wife and confidante, Marlene Fry, the Fry Family Foundation was born.

Willett Survey Crew, 1956. Darryl Fry’s first summer job as a 17-year-old Memorial student was surveying for a road from Bishop’s Falls to Bay D’Espoir.
Photo: Submitted

The letter was addressed to the late Dr. Arthur May (B.Sc.(Hons.)’58, M.Sc.’64, D.Sc.’89), then president and vice-chancellor of Memorial. The initial idea was to endow five scholarships. Dr. May was immediately on board.

“A week or so later, months before the foundation was an official entity, we sat for dinner in New Jersey and worked out the details of the first five scholarships,” said Dr. Fry.

Making an impact

Valerie Piercey (B.Eng.’03, B.Ed.(Post Sec.)’17) is the inaugural recipient of the Charlotte Penwell Dolimount Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of Marlene Fry’s grandmother.

“It was so evident how much they cared.” — Valerie Piercey

The recipient of 15 scholarships, Ms. Piercey says that this one, in particular, stands out the most because of the special impact it had on her.

“I was fortunate to meet the Fry family on a number of occasions and learn about them and the loved ones they were honouring with their scholarships,” she said.

“At one of their annual scholarship dinners, they gave each of us a PalmPilot. This was the latest and greatest technology at the time and definitely not something I could afford as a student. It was so evident how much they cared.”

A progressive gift

Dr. Fry grew from an entrepreneurial young boy who collected bottles and scrap metal and delivered the Evening Telegram in his neighbourhood — before newspaper delivery was organized — to become the first CEO born in Newfoundland and Labrador to have his company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Similarly, the Fry Family Foundation went from funding five entrance scholarships at Memorial University to giving more than $5 million to Newfoundland and Labrador causes, with the biggest portion going to the education of more than 1,000 students.

In 2021, under the leadership of family members Paul and Marie Burt, the foundation expanded its focus to include leadership development and community engagement. They partnered with the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, Genesis, Centre for Social Enterprise, Botanical Garden, GeoCentre, Marine Institute and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science to offer entrepreneurial and social enterprise work terms and internships.

These various programs support Newfoundland and Labrador women and immigrant entrepreneurs, high-school and university students and rural communities in the province, just to name a few areas of focus.

The circle of giving

If Dr. Fry’s goal was to give back to the Memorial community, then he well surpassed that goal.

Since receiving one of those first scholarships, Ms. Piercey has become an electrical instructor at the Marine Institute and a member of the scholarship committee.

There, she is able to see how the foundation is still supporting students. It inspired her to offer a gift of her own: coming full circle from being a recipient of an in memoriam scholarship to the creator of one.

“The impact that their foundation had on me prompted me to establish a scholarship in memory of my brother-in-law who was tragically killed in a hunting accident,” said Ms. Piercey. “It is a wonderful way to honour him.”

The next generation

Mikayla Downey is a student who is about to begin her fourth year studying mechanical engineering in Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

Mikayla Downey’s work term at NL Eats was made possible by the Fry Family Foundation.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

She completed a community service learning work term with NL Eats, a social enterprise focused on battling food insecurity in the province through community, culture and cuisine. The opportunity was made possible by the Fry Family Foundation.

Ms. Downey says she grew her skills in both technology and communications, but the experience also gave her a reminder of why she wants to join the engineering profession.

“Engineers are supposed to do public good,” Ms. Downey said.

“Having community service learning work terms helps connect a future engineer to the profession. At NL Eats, I was able to add my own voice to policy and plans that will actually affect change in our communities. Seeing these real life situations showed me that we can do something great and it motivates me to keep working hard and persevere through a challenging program.”

Future of the foundation

After 25 years of partnering with Memorial, there is no slowing down for the Fry Family Foundation, which now has three generations of family members as trustees.

“Paul and Marie are progressing into new exciting programs and modernizing operations with a website and social media to support our clients,” said Dr. Fry.

“I still love the business world and am very proud of my associates, but I feel sorry for my peers who did not write that first letter and get deeply involved with the givers of the world. It has been a godsend for me.”

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