The Generous Spirit

Photo of John ZavadaWhen John Zavada set out to memorialize his sister, Mary Zavada (LAS MA ’59), he wanted to do something that would exemplify the creativity and compassion she brought to her life.

Mary, who died suddenly two years ago, received a master’s degree in creative writing in 1959 from DePaul—where her thesis comprised a collection of 12 short stories. She was an editor and vice president for publications at the Insurance Information Institute in New York City. Prior to that, she worked as an editor and writer for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. During her career, she taught college courses and also published several works of short fiction in magazines and journals.

“Mary always remembered very fondly her experience at DePaul,” John recalls. “She was taken not only with the quality of the education she received there but also by its mission of welcoming students from all backgrounds, especially those who are the first in their families to attend college.” In 2012 Mary and John established the Eva Sobala Endowed Memorial Scholarship at DePaul for students who are the children of immigrants. It honors their grandmother, who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland.

Following Mary’s death, John worked with DePaul to establish the Mary Zavada Memorial Endowed Scholarship for students who are pursuing degrees with an emphasis in creative writing. They must be students in good standing and exhibit financial need.

“My sister and I could both relate to how hard it can be trying to put oneself through school,” says John, who earned a PhD from New York University and recently retired from the National Science Foundation. “And it hasn’t gotten any easier. I know Mary would be very happy with the way we have honored her and would be excited by the possibilities of the achievements these students may produce in the future. Her love of words will live on through them.”

The first Zavada Scholar was Caroline Macon (THE ’16) from Carrollton, Texas. She had already committed to attend Syracuse University; but when she found DePaul, she was taken by the quality of its creative writing programs at The Theatre School and changed her mind. Ultimately, she decided to pursue a BFA in playwriting. Financially, she says, “I didn’t know if I could make it. Freshman year was rough, but things got better and better as I grew as a writer and became eligible for more scholarship aid.”

Macon published short stories and poems in Crook and Folly, the DePaul literary magazine; and her play, “The Women Eat Chocolate,” was produced during The Theatre School’s 2015-16 New Playwrights Series. Her ten-minute play “The Bubble Machine” was commissioned by Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre for College Night, and she served as an editorial intern at Curbside Splendor Publishing—a multigenre press. Macon graduated this spring and is currently co-writing a show for Chicago Children’s Theatre. She performs at reading series throughout Chicago.

Macon says that moving to Chicago and attending DePaul “is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. My family was hit hard by the recession, and college would have been impossible for me without scholarship assistance. I am incredibly thankful to the Zavadas for their generosity and hope that in some way, through doing good work, I can somehow return that generous spirit back to the world.”


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