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Mary Lee Eisenbarger Farris

The passing of a Northwest Missouri State University alumna inspired her family to establish a scholarship in honor of her commitment to teaching business and her time at the University.

Laurel Farris Goforth recently established the Mary Lee Eisenbarger Farris Scholarship in memory of her mother, Mary Lee, who died in 2020 at the age of 102. The Goforth family set up the scholarship to extend Mary Lee’s legacy as well as assist students pursuing degrees in the field she loved.

A $1,000 award will be given annually to assist Northwest students pursuing a degree in business technology, business education or management information systems. The scholarship recipients will be full-time Northwest students with a grade-point average of 2.50 or higher. First preference will be given to graduates of Mid-Buchanan High School in Faucett, where Mary Lee taught for many decades before retiring in 1983, and second preference will be given to graduates of South Harrison High School in Bethany, where she grew up.

Mary Lee was born into extreme poverty during the 1918 flu pandemic and grew up during the Great Depression, an era before social security and welfare checks. However, she refused to allow those circumstances to hold her back.

Mary Lee desired to teach business as a young girl, and her dreams came to fruition at Northwest. Although her family could not afford to send her to college, her aunt, a clothing model in Detroit, loaned Mary Lee $200. That was enough to pay her tuition and fees for three years.

In 1938, Mary Lee graduated from Northwest with bachelor’s degrees in business education and English. At Northwest, she was a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and worked as an assistant to Olive DeLuce, who chaired the fine arts department for 40 years.

Although she stepped away from teaching during various points in her career after she married and to raise her family, Mary Lee taught for a span of five decades in schools throughout northwest Missouri.

At Mid-Buchanan, Mary Lee taught typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and general business classes. She also was instrumental in establishing a Future Business Leaders of America chapter at the school. Additionally, while teaching business education, Mary Lee continued her education by completing courses in computer science and programming languages.

Laurel, who completed a Master of Business Administration at Northwest in 1993, believes the scholarship in her mother’s memory honors her roots and the value she saw in education.

Scholarships associated with Mary Lee Eisenbarger Farris
  • Mary Lee Eisenbarger Farris Scholarship