Samuel Merritt University enews



SMU Mourns the Loss of a Great Friend, Colleague and Advisor;
Mary Robinson Honored for her Commitment and Dedication

Mary RobinsonSamuel Merritt University community is mourning the loss of a dear friend and colleague, Mary Robinson, Director of Financial Aid.  The sprite mother of two and grandmother of one recently began treatment for lung cancer and was anticipating a full recovery when she died suddenly at her Concord home the morning of October 27.     

"Mary was a treasured friend to many, including the students who benefited from the guidance and care she offered through both her financial aid work and through other involvements on campus," said President Sharon Diaz.  "She touched more lives than most any other staff member through her commitment to helping students secure loans and scholarships, all the while serving as a counselor and mother-figure to many.  A culinary aficionado and an all-around great person, she will be deeply missed." 

For nearly 30 years Mary assisted students in filling out applications and securing financial aid, but she credited the students as being the real heroes in this process.

"Our programs are so intense it's sometimes difficult for our students to work, and they need financial aid to help them through that," said Mary in a 2008 interview.  "Some of them are single parents with children.  They know they have to have financial aid or they won't be able to get through the program.  It really amazes me what our students give up and go through to get through our programs."

Mary began her career at Samuel Merritt in 1981 when at the time there were only 189 undergraduate students, one nursing diploma program and financial aid consisted of Federal Nursing Loan, Federal Stafford Loan and Cal and Pell Grant.  Twenty-nine years later, we now have 1,400 students, several undergraduate and graduate degree programs in five disciplines, and more than two dozen financial aid programs. 

"It's been quite an experience," she said.  "We probably were processing $80,000 worth of financial aid back then, now it's nearly $60 million, mostly from student loans."   

"That speaks to who Mary was," adds Tanya Grigg, Associate Director at Financial Aid.  Grigg worked alongside Mary for 11 years.  "She had magical financial aid powers and she made it work for many students."  Throughout the years Mary received several recognition honors, including awards from the California Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (CASFAA), which demonstrates her commitment for helping students.

"It makes me feel so good when I see a student graduate after they have been here a few years and know that we in the Financial Aid Office had a hand at helping them get there.  I think if it wasn't for financial aid they wouldn't be where they are today," said Mary in the 2008 interview.

Mary's commitment to the University and its students remained intense and enthusiastic.  She often credited not only the different options of state and government financial aid that were available, but her staff in the Financial Aid Office for the success of seeing everyone in the SMU community prosper. 


When a co-worker dies, it can have a significant impact on those in the workplace. There is an element of "family" in most work units. People get to know one another as they work side by side and share work and personal experiences. Sometimes co-workers become close friends and spend time together outside of work. Others keep their relationship at work but develop a deep connection from working together. Some people do not develop close ties at work and reserve their intimate relationships to outside family and friends.

The effects of the loss of a co-worker will be determined by many factors including but not limited to: the number of years worked together, the nature of the relationship, the age of the deceased, the suddenness of the death, and other challenges that may be facing the work group and its staff and/or faculty at the time of the loss.

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"Mary made everyone feel special and welcomed, especially in our office.  We were a family," said Grigg.  "She was not only our supervisor, but to many of us she was a mentor and a mother-figure.  When we each had something going on in our lives, we all looked forward to talking to her about it and she would listen and support us.  We feel the loss."

John Garten-Shuman, Vice President of Enrollment Student Services and close friend to Mary, says, "we'll all remember Mary as a positive person who always wanted to help others.  She had a knack for remembering people, be it faculty, staff, student, or alum.  Mary leaves a legacy at SMU that everyone who values higher education should honor."

With over 90 percent of all students at SMU receiving some form of financial aid, the University has created the Mary E. Robinson Endowed Scholarship fund. 

"Mary felt true compassion for students in need of financial support to fulfill their dreams of becoming healthcare professionals.  Her tireless quest to help relieve the economic stress felt by students was truly remarkable," said Sue Valencia, Executive Director of Development and Alumni Affairs.  "Mary's legacy will live on through the many future SMU students who will benefit from the Mary E. Robinson Endowed Scholarship Fund.  I am certain she would be pleased and honored that a fund bearing her name has been created to further assist SMU students." 

Mary was born in Sedro-Woolley, Washington.  Prior to working at Samuel Merritt University Mary worked as an executive secretary at Merritt and Peralta Hospitals.  She is survived by her daughter and grandson, Stacy and Amayas Gradin, son Terry Robinson, and her two brothers, Al and Jim Bingham.  For more information about the scholarship please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at (510)869-8628.

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Office of the President eNews is published by Samuel Merritt University, Office of the President.
Stephanie Bangert, Executive Director Office of the President / Editor.
Elizabeth Valente, Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations / Editor / Writer.
Michael Tam, Technical Consultant.

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