Mar 23

Longtime University Professor Honors Mother, Assists Students by Establishing New Endowed Scholarship

Cal Poly Pomona Campus News – Week of January 14, 2002 (older article, just found it)

President Bob Suzuki accepts a check for $10,000 from Animal & Veterinary Sciences professor Edward Fonda. The donation will fund a new endowed scholarship at Cal Poly Pomona.

Ed Fonda remembers how his mother influenced him and his sister to pursue advanced degrees. Each eventually obtained a Ph.D., degrees that opened doors of opportunity in both their lives.

Mary McNellis Fonda passed away in February 2001. Ed Fonda, in his 20th year at Cal Poly Pomona where he is presently professor and chair of the university’s Animal & Veterinary Sciences Department, has chosen to honor his mother’s memory by establishing the Mary McNellis Fonda Scholarship.

“My mother was so supportive of education. The mother of two kids, she came from a farm, became a nurse, earned two masters degrees and eventually became head of nursing administration for a large hospital in New Orleans,” says Fonda. “She encouraged me and my sister to continue our education. I see this as a wonderful tribute, establishing a memorial that will enable other students to further their educational dreams.”

The Mary McNellis Fonda Scholarship will be awarded each year by the College of Agriculture through the Cal Poly Pomona University Educational Trust. It will annually recognize a full-time student who is a U.S. citizen with a GPA of 3.0 or higher majoring in Animal & Veterinary Sciences. First preference will be given to a qualified graduate student.

“My mother had two graduate degrees and encouraged both her children to get graduate degrees, so I believe it’s fitting we try to recognize a graduate student with this award,” adds Fonda. “So many times scholarships are established for undergraduates and we may forget the importance of graduate training. I feel this is a good chance to create an opportunity for those students looking to continue their educations.”

Fonda’s $10,000 gift creates a continuing endowment for the scholarship. After one year, that endowment will qualify for matching funds provided by the Kellogg Foundation.


Further details from Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA) – May 3, 2002:

When Mary McNellis Fonda died February 2001, her son, Upland resident Ed Fonda, feared her passion for healing, education and animals would die with her.  To perpetuate his mother’s fine qualities, which others shared, Fonda established the Mary McNellis Fonda Scholarship fund.  The scholarship will be awarded each year to a Cal Poly Pomona student majoring in animal and veterinary science.  Additional criteria for the scholarship include being a United States citizen and holding at least a 3.0 grade-point average. First consideration for the scholarship will be given to graduate students.

Fonda is a professor and the chairman of the university’s animal and veterinary sciences department. He started the fund with a personal $10,000 donation which was matched 50 percent by the Kellogg foundation. The first recipient will be chosen in late May by a committee made up of the agricultural department’s faculty.  The amount of the annual scholarship will vary from year to year depending on interest earned from the principal, Fonda said.

He chose this type of scholarship because his mother was born on and raised on a farm; and Cal Poly’s picturesque setting, rolling hills and lush landscaping would make the perfect backdrop for his mother’s lasting tribute.  “My mother would have loved this place,’ said Fonda about the university where he has taught for more than 20 years.

Fonda’s mother was born in 1913 and grew up on her family’s farm in Iowa. She was one of three children whose parents valued education. Though she was a young woman who became college age during the depression, her father insisted she further her education. She graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.  McNellis married Ed Fonda Sr. and the couple had two children. She worked as an Registered Nurse until her husband died in 1953, then she packed up her kids and moved back to the farm.

She loved the outdoors and the animals. Fonda said his mother believed that her children would benefit greatly from growing up on a farm as she had.  The Fondas raised cattle, pigs and turkeys. Their farm also grew such crops as wheat, soybeans and corn.  “She was tiny and she was tough,’ Fonda said of his mother. “She could drive any type of farm equipment work any piece of heavy machinery. She was amazing.’

Though his mother valued the practical education her children were receiving from farm life, she held formal education in the highest regard and moved back to the city where she believed there were more educational opportunities, Fonda said.  McNellis Fonda herself went back to school and earned two master’s degrees: one in nursing and the other in nursing administration.  She eventually became the the director of nursing at a large hospital in New Orleans.

Her example influenced both her children. Fonda has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Tulane University in New Orleans, a master’s from Louisiana State University in reproductive physiology and a Ph.D. in animal science and reproductive physiology from the University of Georgia.

Fonda’s sister, Jean Westin-Legotic has a Ph.D. in art history from Pennsylvania State University and a law degree from the University of Florida.  “My mother was a great lady and I miss her greatly,’ Fonda said.  It was because of all his admiration for his mother that Fonda wanted to create a lasting memorial for her.

“There were so many things I could have done, but I wanted to do something that really represented what she was all about,’ he said. “I couldn’t think of anything better than something that helped students further their education especially in an area she held so dear.’

Diana Sholley can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 483-8542.

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