Mary Hepp ’49 Dunning

Mary Louise Dunning of Westerville OH, age 94, passed away peacefully at home and in the presence of family members on July 8, 2022. Born in 1928 to a Brooklyn (New York City) couple of modest means, Mary was orphaned young and raised with a cousin by an aunt—a single mother working in the garment district. Mary used exceptional academic achievement in high school to fuel and fund her solo westward journey, entering Hope College in Holland, MI, at age 17 as a working scholarship student. As the war ended and men returned to the College, she met and married her beloved husband, Edward. Mary worked as Ed finished his undergraduate degree and embarked on doctoral studies at Purdue University. After many happy years in Minneapolis, in a 19th-century home facing the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, she settled into a life focused on family, education, and community in central Ohio beginning in 1968. Faith was core for Mary, who was deeply and actively involved with her church families as participant and leader in bible study, teaching, mentoring, and service.

But the conventions of her mid-century, middle-class Midwestern life, while true, obscure a complex and nuanced woman of intellect, passion, and unceasing questioning. Mary had the heart of a poet, writing prolifically about family, faith, and nature. She had the head of a scholar, expecting effort and applauding performance from the students she guided through the great literature—from classic to modern. She had a hand for cultivation—first in her gardens and then at her tree farm, where she watched and welcomed all creatures, great and small. Over the years, she named her numerous cats after literary figures, and in widowhood cherished her sweet dog as a best friend. Most importantly, Mary nurtured a steady, firm hope for a better and fairer world for all, particularly those unseen, forgotten, and neglected.

Sometimes overshadowed by a spouse with a big booming personality, Mary was beloved by those who recognized her compassion, generosity, optimism, and sense of fairness and justice, alongside a quick wit with a flash of impishness—still that Brooklyn orphan seeking her way in the world. Guided and sustained by a deep and enduring faith, she appreciated other faiths and perspectives, facing questions of morality and truth-seeking with humility and openness.

Mary fiercely loved her five children and followed their varied and sometimes unorthodox and meandering endeavors with great appreciation.  But she was perhaps even more delighted by her dozen grandchildren—the dancer and the doctors, the engineers and the analysts, the thinkers and the doers and the caregivers. Beyond their diverse chosen professions, she marveled as they grew into fascinating, passionate adults and pursued surprising pathways to contribute to society. Our mom, grandmom, and great-grandmom formed bonds of friendship and fellowship across ages and cultures, treating all with respect and love, and with a genuine interest in learning from and about those with different experiences and views. She has left her mark on us all—and we are the better for carrying it.

Mary was the hub of a sprawling but connected and affectionate family that extends across the country. She lives on in the hearts of her children Barbara (Saline MI), Charles ’75 and Mary Beth (Madison WI), Elizabeth and Tom (Boone NC), Ruth and Wayne (Chicago IL), and John and Debra (Granville OH). Her adored grandchildren and great-grandchildren are Bryan (Saline MI); Becca and Chris, with Stevie Lou (Sherman Oaks CA); Ross and Meghan, with Finnley, Penelope, and Declan (Saline MI); Brittany and David, with Harrison and Jackson (Granville OH); Alison (Chapel Hill NC); Emily Johnson ’11 and Brian, with Graham (Royal Oak MI); Rachel and Matt, with Carter and Isabella (Manchester MI); Ian (Denver CO); Phillip and Brittany (Austin TX); Rosemary and Wiley (Pittsburgh PA); Mara and Jake (Columbus OH); and Matthew (Granville OH).

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