A History Lesson
A History Lesson
As a high school senior in Massachusetts, Jerilyn Mehaffey Morgan '68 was certain of two things: she wanted to become a teacher and she wanted to attend college out of state. To that end, she decided to visit Gorham State Teachers College, located in a small town in Maine. The rest, as they say, is history—or in Jerilyn Mehaffey Morgan's case, a history teacher: Miss Esther E. Wood.
Miss Esther Wood taught Maine and American history for 43 years at Gorham State Teachers College, a University of Southern Maine predecessor institution. During her long tenure, she left an indelible impression on more than one generation of aspiring teachers.
"Everyone wanted to be in Miss Wood's history classes," remembers Jerilyn. "She really knew how to catch your attention. She was a four-foot-nine dynamo who had a way of taking charge of the classroom—even in a room full of six-foot-tall athletes."
Miss Wood certainly inspired Jerilyn. "She was a big influence on my teaching style. She showed me the importance of commanding respect from your students—and giving it back in return."
These lessons served Jerilyn well throughout her own career as a primary school teacher in Marblehead, MA. "I felt I received a wonderful education," she said. "When I walked into my own classroom for the first time, I was ready. I didn't feel any apprehension. My professors had really prepared me well for the job of teaching."
Jerilyn loved every aspect of her experience at Gorham State Teachers College. "I had many outstanding teachers such as Miss Wood. I made great friends and I have kept in touch with a number of my classmates over the years. In fact four of us, including my former college roommate, plan annual get-togethers each summer in Maine."
In appreciation for all that she gained from her experience at Gorham State Teachers College—her lifelong friendships, her excellent education and the inspiring memory of history classes with Miss Wood—Jerilyn arranged to leave a bequest to USM in her estate plans. Fittingly, her bequest will go to the Esther E. Wood Scholarship Fund.
The Esther E. Wood Scholarship Fund was established in 1994 by members of the Class of '54, who, like Jerilyn, were inspired and influenced by this remarkable teacher. The Fund honors Miss Wood's legacy by making an annual scholarship award to a USM student pursuing a major in history.
"People may be surprised to learn of my decision to leave a bequest to USM," said Jerilyn, who believes that "if everybody just gave a little it would make such a big difference."
Jerilyn Mehaffey Morgan's bequest is a generous lesson in "giving it back."
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