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In Memory of Mary C. Walker

Founder’s Day picture 1976  -- Mary Walker at the Founders’s Day Dinner , November 7, 1976 where she was honored following her retirement that September.  

 Mary Walker at her 100th birthday party in June 2011.

Mary Walker in the Conservatory Dean's Office, where she worked for 25 years.

Mary C. Walker

May 28, 1911 – December 22, 2011

Mary Walker was part of Peabody her whole life. Though her middle name was Catherine, many were convinced that the “C” stood for Conservatory.

Mary attended the Peabody Preparatory, and then went on to study piano with Elizabeth Coulson, and voice with Frazer Gange at the Conservatory. She graduated from Peabody in 1934 and went out into the world to try her hand at private piano teaching and secretarial work.  

She returned to Peabody in 1942 to become what was officially known as “a Secretary in the Conservatory Office”, but she accomplished much more than that sounds. Reginald Stewart, Director of the Conservatory from 1941 to 1958, confessed,”… that Mary ran the school and for that he would always be grateful”. Due to her position in the office, Mary was the first person new students, new faculty and even new Directors and Deans met at the Conservatory, and it was the advice and help she gave students and faculty, from all over the world, as they adjusted to the United States, Baltimore and the Peabody Conservatory that led to her devoted following. In 1967, after 25 years in the Conservatory Office, Mary was appointed as the first Director of Alumni Relations.

She retired in 1976, after 34 years of devoted service to Peabody. At her retirement dinner she was honored by Peabody for her knowledge, ability, understanding and sincerity, as well as her famous wit and charm.  In 1982, The Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association presented her with the Heritage Award, the first Peabody person to receive it, and at her 90th birthday in 2001, over 170 gifts were made in her honor to provide seats for the newly refurbished Friedberg Hall at Peabody.

When she moved to the Edenwald Retirement Community, she became the Music Chairman for that facility, arranging music programs and the attendant publicity through her Peabody contacts. One of her favorites, who she brought back year after year was Peabody faculty member Ernest Liotti (BM ’80, Piano).  When asked about her Ernest wrote, “I remember her warmth, her kindness and her infectious laugh.  Mary loved "Her" Peabody and always asked as to how things were going. She could talk your ear off but one always left with a smile.  I'll never forget her.”

Peabody’s Director, Jeffrey Sharkey, remembers, “I had the pleasure of celebrating Mary's birthday with her a few years ago. She was delightful, full of energy and proud of her years at Peabody. We had a great conversation catching her up on the latest gossip and sharing memories of her time at Peabody.”  For her 100th birthday this May, “she entertained a string of alumni visitors, telling stories about ‘her’ Peabody and the students and faculty she remembered so fondly,” said Debbie Kennison, director of constituent engagement.

Throughout her life she also supported Peabody philanthropically. She funded both of Peabody’s alumni directories to make sure that alumni stayed connected to Peabody, and contributed toward the alumni newsletter. She set up an endowment to support the archives so that Peabody’s history would not be lost.

Mary’s presence will continue to be felt at Peabody forever, thanks to the bequest she made and the work of her cousin Catherine Petrich as trustee of that bequest.  Her gift of $800,000 will be designated as follows:

$100,000 to establish the Mary C. Walker Endowed Fund for the Archives of the Peabody Institute

$100,000 to establish the Mary C. Walker Endowed fund for the Society of Peabody Alumni

$600,000 to establish the Mary C. Walker Endowed Scholarship Fund for undergraduate scholarships– this fund is eligible for the Presidential match, meaning that the University will match the payouts, making it twice as valuable for Peabody.

Do you have a memory of Mary Walker that you would like to share?  Please email us so we can post your memories on this page for others to read.

For more information about making a bequest or life income gift, please contact Patrick O’Neall at 410-234-4669, or at


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