Family honours achievement at graduation 

Members of the late Mary Vella's extended family (left to right) Joe Vella (son), Maryanne Vella (daughter), Joseph Vella (grandson), Mariano Vella (grandson) holding a photo of Mary, Dawn Vella (daughter-in-law), Jurny Vella (great-grandson) holding Mary's Certificate of Arts, Nick Vella (son) and Fairlaine Houpapa, after the graduation ceremony.

A Certificate of Arts presented posthumously to a former student, the late Mary Vella, was a special occasion for her extended family, who attended last month’s Manawatū graduation ceremony to honour her achievement.

Mary lived a full life through family, church, politics and farming before she died aged 83 in 2013. The devoted mother and grandmother was passionate about studying philosophy, which she embraced as a mature student.

Her grandson Mariano crossed the stage during Ceremony Two for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to receive the certificate. Her daughter, Maryanne Vella, said the ceremony was “a brilliant day for the family who were there, and a great honour for our mother who offered so much potential.” 

A close friend and fellow student, Sally Anne Comrie, recalled her friend’s “absolute delight about studying” in a speech she gave at Mary’s funeral, and which the family have shared.

“She loved reading the text books and enjoyed talking to all the 18-year-olds we were surrounded by. She certainly could hold her own in any debate but at no time made anyone feel small or foolish.”

Mary completed papers in Ethics, Environmental Philosophy, Writing: Theory and Practice, Written Communication, Critical Thinking, Knowledge and Reality, and Greek Literature.

She was remembered for her concern about addressing Māori issues and struggles. Sally Anne said Mary had had to rewrite an essay on the effect of Greek history on today’s world because she “only mentioned Greece once and had focussed on the plight of Māori, the state of the Roman Catholic Church and the Labour Party – Mary’s three great loves after her family.”

The farmer’s wife who was an avid bridge player had no qualms about delivering Labour Party leaflets to her largely National Party-supporting neighbours, she said.

Mary Vella was born in Dannevirke of Irish descent, and lived in a railway house in the town.

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