Scholarship honors husband, pays tribute to nurses


Marie Peckham spent her life serving others.

As a young woman and staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps., she served her country during World War II, training pilots how to fly by instrument and teaching plane and ship recognition.

Following her honorable discharge, she completed her education at The University of Akron and Actual Business College and served students at Sacred Heart Academy in Akron, where she held a teaching position.

In 1952, Peckham began a long career serving the citizens of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She worked as an administrative assistant for then-mayor Harding Wichert and later became the city’s first clerk of court and first personnel director, retiring in 1983.

The University of Akron

Marie Peckham (center) established an endowment at The University of Akron to honor her late husband, Jack, and assist nursing students. She was inspired to give, in part, by Kris (left) and Richard Gill, whom she called her “adopted” children.

Throughout her life, in fact, Peckham served on numerous boards and committees at her church and gave generously of her time to community organizations, including the Marine Corps League, Summit County Historical Society, Stan Hywet, International Institute, Salvation Army, Friends of the Library, Cuyahoga Falls Women’s Club, and the Soroptimist Club of Akron.

It was no surprise, therefore, that Peckham was impressed with – and never forgot – the supportive and compassionate nurses who served her husband, Jack, during his lengthy illness.

Friendship spurs a gift

An industrial engineer who retired from Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, Jack was married to Marie for 44 years at the time of his death in 1992.

When Jack initially was diagnosed with cancer, the Peckhams were befriended by fellow church members Richard and Kristine Gill, who began visiting the couple as part of a church program, providing help as needed. After Jack passed away, the friendship continued – for nearly two decades – with Marie affectionately calling the Gills her adopted children, and the Gills referring to Marie as “mom.”

Kristine – a nurse who holds both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from The University of Akron (UA) – is an emeritus faculty member of the University’s College of Nursing. Over the years, she and her husband established five funds at UA, all supporting the College of Nursing.

“We wanted to help students,” said Richard, explaining why he and Kris created the funds, “and we always hoped our philanthropy would inspire others to do the same.”

It did.

In 2001 Marie established The Jack W. Peckham Memorial Scholarship to honor her late husband and to assist nursing students at The University of Akron. She wanted her gift to help the University continue educating knowledgeable, caring nurses – much like the ones she depended on during her husband’s illness.

When Marie passed away in February 2011, the scholarship she lovingly established as a tribute to her husband became fully endowed, thanks to a generous gift from her estate. And Marie, whether she realized it or not, continued her own legacy of serving others – even after her death.