As a sophomore at Moore College of Art & Design, Mary Jennings ’88 was not happy about spending a full year learning about color.
“I remember just being so upset that I had to pay to take two whole semesters of my college experience doing that,” she said. “But they’ve just been the most valuable, so it’s funny, the things we complain about.”
The color theory teacher, beloved faculty member Louise Stahl, was one of many instructors at Moore who were very important in Jennings’ life, “and I continue to think about them.” That’s why she and her husband are endowing the Mary ’88 and Steven Jennings Endowed Teachers Summer Institute Scholarship to help art teachers attend Moore’s Teachers Summer Institute. The annual professional development retreat for high-school art educators provides the opportunity to recharge batteries, deepen personal direction, hone skills and discover new applications for educational practice.
“I think feeding our teachers is so important, and getting them outside of their own classrooms to be students themselves is also very important,” she said. “They pour themselves out year-round, and this gives them an opportunity to be poured into and ignite certain parts of their imagination and give them a little spike in energy. And then, perhaps the teachers will share with their students how much they enjoyed their own learning experience while at Moore."
Jennings attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. and learned about Moore from her instructors.
“Teachers are so important in recognizing the potential in students, and in giving them that jolt that they need to get going,” she said. Jennings said a small scholarship granted during the portfolio review process at Moore, plus insurance money she received when her mother passed away when she was 12, allowed her to attend college.
“I thought that this (Mary ’88 and Steven Jennings Endowed Teachers Summer Institute Scholarship) was a wonderful way to honor that,” she said.
Jennings is currently the artist in residence with Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA, where she helps vacationing families and corporate folks with finding their inner artist. Her professional skills have expanded beyond textiles to include interior design and decorative and mural painting. Her art has appeared in juried shows and she has earned awards. She’s also appeared in HGTV Bed and Bath shows, served as a mentor and judge for eBay business start-up competitions, and facilitates corporate groups with team building and creative branding exercises.
She recalled her color theory classes with Louise Stahl at Moore.
“The class required so many monotonous color theory exercises that seemed to never end, but truly helped develop skills that I am able to use to this day as well as share with my own students," she said. "It was such a valuable foundation.”
Jennings hopes her decision to fund a scholarship will inspire others.
“It's not like you have to be a person of amazing means to be a giver and to help somebody,” she said. “There are opportunities for everyone to give in every direction that feels very good. It makes good sense.”
She also hopes that by providing the opportunity for teachers to spend time practicing their art, they will return refreshed to their schools and let their students know about Moore.
“I love that the gift is going to teachers, and that just feels really good,” she said. “It feels like a good fit for where my heart is at the moment.”