Mary Nigro Cutrona

Honored by:Carolyn E. Cutrona
Brick location:G:9  map

Mary ("Mae") Nigro Cutrona was born in Buffalo New York on June 5 1914. She was the oldest of nine children born to Dominick and Catherine Nigro. Dominick immigrated from Italy in the early 1900's. He worked as a gardener and was active in the trade union movement. Often he posted bail for union members who had been arrested for their union-related activities. He paid their mortgages while they were in jail in an effort to save their homes.

Education was always very important to Mary Nigro. She graduated from Hutchinson Central High School in 1932 and received her Bachelor's Degree from Buffalo State Teacher's College in 1936. She was a teacher for two years before she married Louis J. Cutrona another child of Italian immigrants in 1938. At that time women were not allowed to be teachers after they married. She followed her husband to the University of Illinois for graduate school and to Duluth Minnesota where he had his first teaching job. Later she and her husband moved to Long Island New York Ann Arbor Michigan and La Jolla California. During the first fifteen years of her marriage she was active in the League of Women Voters the Faculty Women's Club and the Democratic Party.

Mae Cutrona had two children, Louis, born in 1944, and Carolyn, born in 1951. When Carolyn was in first grade Mae returned to school and completed a Master's Degree in Counseling and Guidance. She completed a second Master's Degree in Home Economics. She returned to paid employment as a junior high school home economics teacher in about 1961.

It was Mae Cutrona's dream to complete a Ph.D. and teach at the college level. When she made inquiries about gaining admission to the doctoral program in Higher Education Administration at the University of Michigan she was told that the program was designed "to train university presidents - not middle-aged women." The professor who said this to her said he would deny having said it. She was shocked and hurt by this rejection. She continued to teach junior high school until 1968 when she obtained a visiting instructorship at Western Michigan University. She taught Household Economics there for one academic year. At the end of that year her husband obtained a new job in California. They moved to California in 1969. Her son, Louis, received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from M.I.T. in 1971. Mae Cutrona continued to take an active interest in the Democratic Party and served as a Poll Watcher in 1976 after her diagnosis of terminal cancer. She learned that her daughter Carolyn had been admitted to a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology at UCLA that year. She died on September 28 1978. Her daughter is now a full professor at Iowa State University in the Department of Psychology. A grand- daughter and a grandson who never met their grandmother have inherited her love of learning of people and of life.