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UNCP names its fifth Esther G. Maynor Scholar


Mary Grace Curiale is the 2013 Esther G. Maynor Scholar at UNC Pembroke.

From Fair Bluff, N.C., Curiale is UNCP’s fifth Maynor Scholar. She has joined the Honors College, which also bears the name of the late philanthropist, Esther G. Maynor. It is the university’s most prestigious scholarship, paying tuition, fees, room, board and books and is renewable for four years.

An outstanding student with diverse interests, Curiale plans to major in psychology and hopes to go to medical school.

“I will take the prerequisites for medical school, but my father suggested that I major in something I really enjoy as an undergraduate,” Curiale said in an interview during the first week of school. “Everything is going well so far. I’m in the Honors College living-learning community, so I take classes with students on my hall.”

Curiale describes herself as a “focused” student who studies between classes. Both her parents are college graduates. Her mother is a UNCP graduate, and her father is a physician’s assistant (PA).

“We looked at other colleges, but this was the place for me,” Curiale said. “This is a tight-knit campus, and I won’t be sitting is a class with three or four hundred people.”

With very diverse interests, Curiale plans to become involved on campus and off. Through a service-learning class, she has already joined UNCP’s Literacy Commons, a project in the local schools. She lists theatre, ceramics, bowling, international culture and reading history as serious interests.

“I grew up on a 52-acre farm in a small community, where everybody knew everybody,” she said. “I worked in the garden, and I can cook, too.

“I like to do a little of everything,” she said. “There are some things I can’t do, like sing and dance.”

Another thing Curiale learned from her small community is the value of caring for each other.

“I know everybody in our church and at the beauty parlor,” she said. “Whenever somebody is in need, we come together to help.”

Curiale volunteered at a local senior center this summer following an outpatient surgery. She knows far more medical terminology than a typical 18-year-old. Besides growing up with a PA in the family, she has job shadowed with Fair Bluff’s pharmacist and family physician.

After surgery, administrators at the Columbus County Hospital asked her to consult on a project to make the outpatient surgery more efficient. The hospital staff was looking for someone with “experience as a patient,” she said.

“I learned so much about how a hospital worked,” Curiale said. “We improved the patient experience. We found that patients had to walk a quarter-to-half a mile in pre-op. We were able to locate some wheelchairs, too.

“We reported out to a group of about 50 hospital administrators and doctors,” she said. “I’ve had an interesting summer.”

Another reason Curiale knows so much about health care is her own health. She has had numerous surgeries related to a chronic illness since childhood.

“We’ve had some worrisome times,” she said. “Because of our healthcare debt, I might not have been able to pay for college.”

The Maynor Scholarship proved the ticket. Curiale said she read about it online and applied.

“My mother encouraged me to apply,” she said. “In the essay and interviews, I decided to just be myself. If that’s not what they were looking for, then so be it.”

Curiale is just the type of students that Dean Mark Milewicz of the Maynor Honors College is looking for.

“Mary Grace exemplifies the well-rounded, community-focused, student-scholar that we value in the Maynor Honors College. She is not only academically distinguished, but is engaged in a variety of other pursuits as well.”

“Okay,” she admitted during an interview during the first week of school. “I can’t sing or dance.”

However, theatre is among her favorite things. Curiale was a stage manager for four years in high school and is expert at lighting and sets. She hopes to continue as a volunteer for student productions.