Alabama public servant Jolley remembered

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024

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Mary Allen Jolley spent a lifetime of public service to the State of Alabama. She was pivotal in creating Family Resources Centers, the first student loan program, and recruiting global industry to the state.

“She has had a tremendous impact on the state. She helped get the Family Resource Model started in the State of Alabama. Without the efforts of Mary and some other key individuals, the Circle of Care wouldn’t be here,” said Jonathan Herston, Executive Director of the Circle of Care. “Hers has truly been a life well lived, and thousands across the state, including many here locally, have had their lives positively impacted by her work without knowing to give her credit.”

The Sumter County, AL, native spent her life translating her optimism, intelligence, and hard work into programs that continue to improve the quality of life for millions of citizens. Jolley passed away peacefully in December at the age of 95, shortly after completing her autobiography, Accidental Activist, which will be published in June.

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She helped found the Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers (ANFRC) in the early 1990s and continued to support with wise counsel until her death. Royalties from book sales will benefit the ANFRC Jolley began her academic career at Livingston State Teachers College, now the University of West Alabama, before transferring to the University of Alabama. Both universities later awarded her with honorary doctorate degrees.

A hallmark of Jolley’s public service career was her tenure as a staff member for the legendary Alabama Congressman Carl Elliott. Her involvement alongside Congressman Elliott led to the passage of the first national student loan program, the National Defense Education Act of 1958, and the Vocational Education Act of 1964. After posts with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, she became

Vice President for Development at Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC in 1977 and is credited for spearheading initiatives to assist women in non-traditional jobs. Returning home to Alabama in 1984, she was selected as the University of Alabama’s Director of Economic and Community Affairs. At the Capstone she played a key role in helping recruit global industry to the state.

In 1994, Jolley was appointed by Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. as Director of the Governor’s Office of Children and Families. One of her proudest achievements in that post was the initiation of community-based Family Resource Centers, culminating in the Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers (ANFRC).

After 12 years of dedicated board service to the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation, she was recognized as the philanthropy’s Board Member Emeritus and remained on the board until her death. In addition to the honorary doctorates from UWA and UA, the long list of awards and recognition includes the University of Alabama Distinguished Alumna Award.