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A legacy of selflessness

Scholarship fund helps teaching students touched by cancer

Contact: Heather Smith


By Cynthia J. Drake, M.A. ’08
Reprinted from Centralight Fall 2016​​

Sue Maly, ’73, faced her death the way she faced her life – with grace, love and selflessness.

“When she got the news [she had terminal ovarian cancer], there was a little bit of that, ‘Here we go ...’ that lasted a couple hours,” says her husband, Tim Maly, ’74. “But she quickly just moved to, ‘OK, here’s what we’re facing. How do I get ready for it, and how does the family get ready for it?’”

She put a cookbook of her recipes together so Tim would be able to make meals for himself. She thoughtfully recorded answers to questions from her four adult children on video.

And, from a hospital bed where she observed other cancer patients struggling to pay their bills, she brainstormed a way she could smooth the path for people in that situation, long after she died. That became the Susan Colby Maly Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“She had this incredible grace about her,” says Tim. “The hospice people told me a couple times that they really had never seen anything like it.

In the midst of chemotherapy

Even as Sue was facing debilitating treatments and heartbreaking end-of-life decisions, she still thought of others.

“We were at the hospital, and Sue was getting prepped for her chemo,” Tim remembers.

“There was a woman in the chair next to her who was receiving her pre-chemo drugs, when the nurse came in and informed her that her insurance was not covering the chemo. When the woman asked how much the treatment cost, she was told $5,000.

“You can imagine what happened: she couldn’t afford it and her treatment was stopped. We thought how awful to have to face all the emotions that go along with fighting a deadly disease and at the same time agonizing over how you are going to handle it financially. It just seemed wrong to us. This experience and others had a profound impact on us.

”The Malys knew they wanted to smooth the path for others who faced that particular financial hardship. The choice to focus their efforts on creating an endowed scholarship at CMU was not a hard one – that’s the place their love first bloomed.“

On a sultry Michigan August day, the summer of 1971, I first lay my eyes on your dad,” Sue wrote to her daughter Michelle before her wedding. “One of the choice activities those days was to take a dive off of the dam on the Chippewa River and body-surf the rapids below. That’s when I saw Tim for the first time. My roommate and I were sitting on a blanket, not-so-subtly checking out the divers, when a tall, tanned, gorgeous man stepped in line for his jump.”

Tim and Sue were married 40 years.

The Susan Colby Maly Endowed Scholarship

The Susan Colby Maly Endowed Scholarship is for future teachers, just like Sue was, whose lives have been touched by cancer in some way.

Sarah Disanto, a senior special education cognitive impairments major from Macomb, was the first recipient. Disanto’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and the family suffered not only from the emotional but the financial impact of her diagnosis.

“It was a hard time for our family because my mom was a self-employed court reporter, so she received no benefits and no pay when she was going through surgeries and recovery,” says Disanto.

“It kind of left my dad, my brother and I to pull together and find ways that worked to make ends meet.”

Of the scholarship, she says, “It’s an honor. I really don’t think there are words to say thank you enough.”

‘Mrs. Maly, don’t blow this pop stand’​

During their careers, the Malys moved around the U.S. quite a bit for Tim’s positions in human resources. Sue Maly relished the adventure, always finding teaching positions and even working as a principal and in a men’s correctional facility. She was beloved by her students no matter where they went.

One time, when the family was leaving North Carolina for their next stint, community members added a special message to the sign at the local Taco Bell with one of her favorite sayings: “Mrs. Maly, don’t blow this pop stand.”

She left too soon, but someone whose light burned so brightly never truly leaves any of us. •

Annual CMU Scholarship Luncheon
The first CMU Scholarship Luncheon was held in 1988, with 92 people in attendance. The 2016 event, honoring Sue Maly, welcomed more than 515 people.

By the numbers:
  • ​​Lifetime giving of all donors invited to the 2016 luncheon: $43.5 million. 
  • Lifetime giving of donors in attendance at the 2016 luncheon: $6.5 million. 
  • 2016 awards: 1,173 awards were given to 950 students for the 2015-16 academic year, totaling more than $2 million


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