Mary Rossiter ‘67 has a few peculiar memories she holds close to her heart when she thinks about her time at Elms College. Catching frogs from a stream near campus. Bringing home fruit flies for a genetics experiment over the Easter holiday. And, last but not least, building a kymograph—an instrument to measure changes in pressure or motion—with her friends in the lab.

“It was stimulating because we all had different perspectives,” says Mary, who majored in biology and studied under Sr. Margaret James. “When you have to do things on a rudimentary level, you teach one another.”

Mary got her start in medical science as a teenager. After her mother passed away when Mary was 19, she put her college dreams on hold temporarily. Her family’s physician put in a good word for her at the local hospital in Somers Point, NJ, however, and Mary began working as a medical technician.

“They didn’t really have a student program,” recalled Mary. “I was their only trainee.”

This experience was monumental, she said, as it spurred her interest in laboratory work. She initially learned how to draw blood, but quickly moved on to more advanced techniques like doing blood counts, making slides, and identifying cells.

After gaining early experience in the workforce, Mary earned her associates degree at a community college in North Carolina. She knew that she needed a four-year degree to work as a laboratory professional and decided to transfer to Elms, where she could bring her studies full circle. At Elms, her passion for science blossomed. While she rarely left the lab except on the weekends, she enjoyed exploring western Massachusetts with other on-campus residents. 

“I had a car, which made me very popular,” she joked. “I made some very close friends at Elms.”

After graduating in 1967, Mary moved back home and began working at Shore Memorial Hospital. As the facility’s laboratory supervisor, she oversaw the implementation of its first patient-focused computer system. She remained at Shore for 37 years, during which she earned her master’s degree in biology from Long Island University and taught classes at Atlantic Community College.

When Mary retired in 1998, she turned her focus to church life. She became a eucharistic minister and a lecturer, and even did home visits around her hometown of Northfield, NJ. She started a prayer shawl group with her parish and organizes donations to area nursing homes. 

Mary’s impulse to help others extends beyond her parish. She made the decision to include Elms College in her estate plans because she wants to support future generations of STEM scholars.

“I don’t think you could make a better investment,” she said. 

Join the Living Legacy Society

If you would like more information about joining the Living Legacy Society, contact Bernadette Nowakowski ’89, ’08, vice president of institutional advancement, at 413-265-2214 or nowakowskib@elms.edu.

This article was previously published in the Spring 2021 issue of Elms Magazine.