With the passing of Peggy Pitman Mays '53 on November 11, Saint Mary's Hall has lost an exceptional friend, benefactor, and champion.
Mrs. Mays' long-lasting legacy began when she enrolled as a student in 1944. A born leader, she was president of the freshman class, treasurer of the Student Council, treasurer of the junior class, president of the Student Council, an Elliott cheerleader, and a member of the Spanish, French, and Choral Clubs. The 1953 La Reata described Peggy as "a valiant upholder of the traditions of the School," who "excels in all undertakings." After her graduation in 1953, Mrs. Mays continued to make her mark on SMH for decades to come.
Mrs. Mays joined the Saint Mary's Hall faculty in 1957 as a Form 2 teacher for two years, which helped define her lifelong commitment to supporting faculty and education. Her tenure as a teacher at Saint Mary’s Hall was an enduring source of pride. Her life experiences and love of the Saint Mary’s Hall community led her to establish the Peggy Pitman Mays Fund for Teacher Excellence in 2008. This forward-looking program enables faculty to travel the globe studying various topics, which have an enormous impact on SMH students. Her energy for the program was boundless. Each year, Mrs. Mays eagerly collaborated with faculty and administrators and personally reviewed grant applications to help plan these life-changing professional development opportunities. She was even known to call a hotel or two to find a better deal for the SMH travelers! In total, 90 grants have been awarded to 73 members of the SMH faculty since its establishment. Thanks to Mrs. Mays, SMH teachers have studied across the globe, exploring topics related to their field of interest. Countless students have, in turn, benefited from these explorations, each enriching the classroom environment and expanding the student experience.
With the Peggy Pitman Mays Fund for Teacher Excellence grant last summer, Form 3 Teacher Jane Viccellio attended the 55th annual UK Literary Association conference, worked with Cambridge University Professor Maria Nikolejeva exploring the work of Roald Dahl, and followed the trail of the Brothers Grimm. Mrs. Viccellio shares, "While traveling, I formed invaluable partnerships with a classroom north of London and a published expert in children's literature, both of whom will correspond with my classroom as we read and write fiction throughout the school year. Additionally, my journey to Rapunzel's Tower, Little Red Riding Hood's village, and Sleeping Beauty's castle have inspired a 'fairy tale trail' throughout the SMH campus, in which students author original works to accompany the beauty and landmarks of Saint Mary's Hall."
Please see what each of the 2019 Mays Grant recipients said about their experiences.
Mrs. Mays’ love of Saint Mary's Hall often translated to selfless generosity. The student experience was a priority to her, and she was a consistent supporter of The Windham Fund for Excellence providing financial aid to qualified students and supporting the School’s efforts to recruit and retain exceptional faculty members. Thanks to her generous support of the I AM Saint Mary's Hall campaign, the Peggy Pitman Mays Dining Hall was renovated and named in her honor. This important space is a constant reminder of her legacy and positively impacts every student, faculty, and staff member daily.
In 2007, Mrs. Mays received the Distinguished Alumnae Award, presented to an alumnus of the School whose contributions to Saint Mary's Hall and the greater community have set a standard of excellence worthy of recognition. In 2011, she was recognized with the School's most prestigious honor, the Founders' Day Award. It was a special moment when Randall Mays, her son and Board of Trustees Chair, had the honor of introducing his mother and presenting her with the award. When Mrs. Mays accepted the award, she spoke fondly about many of her teachers and reminded everyone that teachers bestow upon us the knowledge we carry for a lifetime. She reminisced, "My first memory of Saint Mary's Hall was walking into the 4th grade and meeting classmates who are today lifelong friends. The happiest moment was getting my Blue Tie, and my proudest was being elected president of the Student Government. Today, my fondest memories follow me through the halls with my grandchildren."
Mrs. Mays and her classmates felt Saint Mary’s Hall was a transformational place that bonded them together for life, counting many of them among her lifelong friends. She was an active alumna of the School throughout the last 65 years. She is the proud mother to Kathy ’78, Mark, Linda, and Randall, and was also a proud grandmother to Grace ’14, Lowry ’16, Margot ’17, and Nicole ’22. Her children, grandchildren, and countless family members continue her legacy at Saint Mary’s Hall today.
Peggy Pitman Mays was an avid and active supporter of many causes and organizations in San Antonio and throughout Texas, and we are especially grateful that she maintained a deep and enduring connection to Saint Mary’s Hall. She was a remarkable friend of SMH, and we are a better school because of her partnership and incredible support. With a grateful heart, we extend our condolences to her family and mourn the loss of such an extraordinary woman.