Anita May ’62, Ph.D., was a first-grade student at a Catholic school in Utica, N.Y., in the mid-1940s when the sisters who taught her explained that a new Jesuit college was being built 50 miles away in Syracuse. The 6-year-old made her first donation to that institution – a dime – not knowing the role it would eventually play in her life. Just 12 years later, May found herself on the Le Moyne campus. She immersed herself in the study of history, literature and religion under the direction of educators like John Bush, S.J., and Donald Monan, S.J. She witnessed up close the pacifist and human rights movement being led by people like Daniel Berrigan, S.J. And, at a time when women’s professional options were severely limited, she was encouraged to pursue her dreams and a doctorate by people like Peg Snyder, Ph.D., the College’s dean of women.
“It was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute of it,” she recalled.
May’s time at Le Moyne taught her to think creatively, to ask questions about the world, and to appreciate the beauty in other histories and cultures. After earning a doctorate in European and American history from the University of Pittsburgh, she accepted the position as president and executive director of the Oklahoma Humanities Council. She held that post for 31 years, bringing invaluable artistic and cultural opportunities to the people of the Sooner State, and exposing them to important historic and literary figures. In addition to that critical work, she helped to shape the next generation of leaders as a visiting lecturer of European and women’s history at the University of Central Oklahoma, and put her passion for writing and history to work as the author of Patriot Priests: French Catholic Clergy and National Identity in World War I.
None of this, she said, would have been possible had it not been for her time at Le Moyne and the foundation she received there. To that end, the former first-grade student from Utica, N.Y., recently made another gift to the College, one that will help ensure that other students receive a similar opportunity to pursue their dreams. She established the J. Thomas and Anita Rasi May Scholarship for first-generation students who are studying the humanities. It was a natural fit, she said. May believes passionately that exposure to the liberal arts is an essential and enriching part of everyday life, and that colleges like Le Moyne are not merely preparing people to be competent workers, but good, productive citizens.
The scholarship established by Anita May ’62, Ph.D., is part of the $100 million Always Forward campaign, which was publicly announced in June of 2018.