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Alumni Profiles  

Summer 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 3

 

Mary Unger HollowayWith a song in her heart: Mary Unger Holloway ’28

by Karen Crowley Metzinger MA ‘97

Amid the rolling prairies
Of Illinois’ fair lands
Where skies are always bluest,
That’s where old Bradley stands
Her loyal sons and daughters
To her allegiance give
We’ll fight for alma mater
So long as we shall live.


Listening to Mary Unger Holloway ’28 zestfully recite these words to the song she wrote for the musical comedy she created while at Bradley is a heartwarming experience. Watching her eyes light up as she tenderly pages through her 1928 Polyscope yearbook is a walk down
memory lane.

Mary wrote the lyrics of the song for Bradley’s first original musical comedy, Come Across, and someone in the music department wrote the melody. It all began the day that Charles Lindbergh landed his solo flight. Mary vividly recalls, “We were sitting on the bleachers, when Nadine Cragg, the women’s athletic coach, tried to convince me to clean her apartment for a party she had planned.

Image of The Bradley Tech newspaperI told her I didn’t come to college to learn how to clean apartments, but I would referee a team for her instead, even freshman hockey. I liked Nadine a lot. She made me do things I didn’t know I could do. And that’s what I still try to do around here.”

Mary never did clean Coach Cragg’s apartment, but at Cragg’s request, Mary contributed to the Women’s Athletic Association in a manner more suitable to her talents. She wrote an all-female-cast musical comedy that benefited the athletic fund. Adds Mary, “When she asked me in May to have the first act finished by September, I thought she was kidding. But in September, she called and asked for the first act.” Since Mary was an English major and wrote the humor column, “In Sane Moments” for the student newspaper, the Bradley Tech, it wasn’t too hard for her to write the play, but she admits to finishing it the day before it was performed.

“What made the play such a success was that so many students and faculty from a variety of departments contributed to it and wanted it to succeed. Everyone, including the manual training students who created some special effects that involved a magic moon, enjoyed the experience. We got everybody in on it, everybody contributed, and everybody wanted it to succeed. Parents wanted to see it. The best way to get full cooperation is to get everyone into the picture. Most people have talent they don’t know they have,” says Mary.

According to the April 19, 1928 issue of The Bradley Tech, “Mary Unger is the author, general manager, and leading light of the show.” The article also touted that well-known Chicago costumer, Lester, provided the extravagant costuming in the play.
Following graduation, Mary left for Washington, D.C., with her brother who was pursuing a law degree at

Georgetown University. She worked for five years during the 1930s at the Washington Times Herald for “the experience and to learn,” before going to work for the federal government for 30 years in the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress. Unger received a framed award from the Civil Service for a major project she developed before her retirement. The award hangs next to one of many intricate needlepoint designs she has stitched over the years.
“I was unique in everything I did,” says Mary. “Most women were timid in that day; they didn’t speak up for themselves. I was ahead of my time; I probably got that from my mother. When my husband died in 1969, I moved back to the Midwest. I made a new life here, a good life. I’m fascinated with history. I love to read. I’ve always made the best of everything.”