Skip To Main Content

Mary Pilgreen Memorial Scholarship

Mary Pilgreen


Mary Pilgreen was a highly regarded teacher, counselor, vice principal, and principal before her retirement in 1999 after thirty-three years of service to Springfield Public Schools. Her death in 2008 saddened friends, family, and colleagues, but her memory continues to inspire others. 

Two $1,000 scholarships are awarded each year to honor Mary’s passion for education. Scholarships are awarded to Springfield School District seniors who plan to major in education, have a higher than average academic standing, provide two letters of recommendation, and have been involved in extracurricular activities and community service.

Applications for the $1,000 scholarship may be picked up in the career centers at Springfield and Thurston high schools and from guidance counselors at Gateways High School, the Academy of Arts and Academics (A3), and Willamette Leadership Academy. Applications are due in March.

About Mary Pilgreen

Born in 1944, Mary grew up in Helix, Oregon, a small, wheat farming community a few miles north of Pendleton. After graduating from Helix High School, she attended the University of Oregon. While earning her B.S. in Physical Education and M.S. in Counseling and Administrative Certification, she formed life-long friendship with her sisters in the Delta Gamma Sorority.

During the thirty-three years that Mary was employed with the Springfield School District, she served in a number of different capacities. She spent four years as a physical education teacher, four years as a junior high school counselor, and three years as a senior high school counselor. Mary also coached volleyball and gymnastics. She then became a middle school assistant principal for twelve years and afterwards, a middle school principal for ten years. She was the founding principal of Agnes Stewart. Her time there was cut short by a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, and she retired from education – but not for long. After spending time rehabilitating her heart, she signed on to substitute. She later commented that she would be a better principal after standing in the shoes of classroom teachers again.

One always to set goals, Mary decided to train to walk a marathon. Walking was already part of her rehab program, and so the training began, which included walking half-marathons. Before her death, she completed three marathons: Portland, Mayor’s Midnight Sun (Anchorage), and Avenue of the Giants in the Redwoods.

Never one to be idle, when her daughter’s college volleyball team was left without a cook for the preseason training, Mary gathered together her recipes and spent six weeks in Hawaii preparing team meals. On a whim one day in Pendleton, after stopping at a Princess Cruise Line recruiting table, she signed on to work at their hotel in Talkeetna, Alaska, a summer job she returned to each year until her passing. One of the benefits of being an employee was discounted cruises, so she began cruising. The last cruise she planned on taking was the Caribbean, but she passed away just days before the cruise. Mary had a wicked sense of humor, and a colleague quipped that Mary probably, upon entering the Pearly Gates, remarked, “Really? You couldn’t have waited two weeks?”

Mary eventually returned to Helix to remodel her childhood home, and she accepted a job as a middle school principal for the Athena-Weston School District. Sadly, Mary passed away in 2008 before learning that the school received an exceptional rating from the Oregon Department of Education. She was credited with bringing about changes that led to significant student gains. The superintendent of Athena-Weston Schools described Mary as “not just a principal, but a friend and mentor to everyone.”