Isabelle Curtiss (right) was on hand to announce the first recipient of a scholarship from the Isabelle V. Curtiss Education Fund that she established at the Connecticut Community Foundation. Mary Palys, now a freshman at University of Rhode Island, was thrilled to receive the $5,000 scholarship, and to meet the generous donor behind the award.
Isabelle V. Curtiss remembers being called into the Principal’s office at the tender age of ten. Unsure of the reason, she felt a mix of curiosity and dread.
“The Principal told me that if I worked hard and studied hard, I could be anything I want to be,” said Isabelle. Those words resonated with her and, perhaps, changed the trajectory of her life.
Now, 70 years later, Isabelle’s long and accomplished career as a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist is peppered with awards and accolades. She was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and has served in many leadership roles in her profession and her community.
“Education is critical to me and has made a tremendous difference in my life. Now, it’s my turn to make a difference in young people’s lives by helping them to build solid foundations through education.”
Last year, Isabelle established the Isabelle V. Curtiss Education Fund at the Connecticut Community Foundation to accomplish her goal. The scholarship is available to motivated Oxford High School graduates in the top ten percent of their class. Awards are significant—$5,000—and will be awarded each year in perpetuity.
Isabelle is a former trustee of the Foundation, and trusts that the Foundation will be a good steward of her fund. Her scholarship fund joins about 130 others at the Foundation, which awards nearly $1 million in scholarships each year. Many of these are open to students from Oxford High School.
“Oxford is important to me because my family has a long history in the area, dating back to the 1600s,” said Isabelle. The land in Oxford where Isabelle lives and maintains three acres of perennial gardens (in addition to her continued full-time work as a CPA/PFS and many activities in the community), has been in her family for 100 years.
It is important to Isabelle that the scholarship recipients be well-rounded, involved in extracurricular activities, community service and/or employment.
Mary Palys, the very first recipient of the scholarship, fits that bill well. Now a freshman at University of Rhode Island, Mary is studying chemical engineering and Chinese. Her hope is, of course, to save the world. And she intends to do it by finding ways to produce clean water and protect the environment.
“As a Girl Scout, I learned to leave things better than I found them,” said Mary, explaining her passion.
Mary was honored to receive the scholarship, recognizing that many of her classmates also applied. She shares Isabelle’s view of education. “It’s where people find themselves and their direction.”
The scholarship, which Mary views as validation of her hard work, may be the thing that changes the trajectory of her life—much like Isabelle’s Principal all those years ago.
“I have my sights set on my future, and it looks promising,” she said. “I’d love to get to a point where I can help someone else with my same ambitions, and Isabelle’s.”