Mary Graydon: AU's Enigmatic Benefactress
“As in the past, it is my desire and urgent request that no publicity whatever be given to my name in connection with these gifts.”
Mary Graydon in a letter to Bishop Hurst, 1897
AU students today know the name Mary Graydon as part of the campus landscape. But who was the woman behind the name?
In many ways, we don’t know—and that’s what she would have wanted. The most important donor during AU’s early years, Graydon gave more than $750,000, gifts that sustained the university for decades. A devout Methodist, Graydon supported AU in its original mission to promote Protestant Christian morality. In return, she requested only anonymity.
Looking through Mary Graydon's files offers a small window into understanding who she was. Her death notice in The Christian Advocate and a letter written after her death from her church's pastor, Karl Quimby, to Dr. Albert Osborn suggest a devout Christian woman whose faith led her to give away a vast fortune to what she saw as worthy causes. An early letter from John W. Graydon to Bishop Hurst implies that at least at the outset, Mary Graydon was particularly interested in supporting women's education.
What else can you find in Mary Graydon's files? Check out a small selection below.