Ahead of Their TimeA 67-year marriage and a lifetime of giving to others.
FOR MANY AMERICANS, the plight of immigrants and refugees is a newfound concern. Not so for Marty and Mollie Price. Starting in the 1960s, the two were deeply involved in combatting conditions that fed mistreatment — racism, bigotry and attitudes influenced by the Vietnam War. The Prices made it their personal mission to help achieve social change that would allow people of all backgrounds to be accepted in this country.
Their son, Charles Price, a retired physician from Ann Arbor, describes them as unwavering in their moral and ethical principles. Though they were not religious, they were descendants of Russian Jewish immigrants, “and were committed to making sure that all people, particularly those from minority groups, felt welcome and respected.”
The Prices’ commitment to achieving a more inclusive society influenced their entire family and led oldest daughter, Rosanne Stead of Pittsburgh, along with Charles and their brother Fredric, to establish The Mollie S. and Martin B. Price Family Fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation in 2012. By then, Marty and Mollie were in their mid-80s but were enthusiastic participants in grantmaking.
“Our parents were outward-looking people tuned into the problems of the world,” says Dr. Fredric Price, an oncologist and palliative care specialist at Allegheny General Hospital. “They both had a spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy and wanted very much to enable solutions to happen.”
The Pittsburgh Foundation fund was established, the siblings say, as an ongoing, life-affirming expression of that spirit.
The manifestation of it in on-the-ground philanthropy was very personal for the Prices. After a series of site visits to Pittsburgh’s Environmental Charter School organized by Rosanne, Marty, a chemist, was impressed with the science education program and made grants of $2,500 in 2014 and $2,600 in 2016 to the school. He remained involved with grantmaking until his death in 2016.
“Rosanne loved my parents so much and wanted to do something to honor them as they got older and it became more difficult for them to do the things they loved to do during their lifetime,” Fredric says.
Specifically, the fund supports organizations that assist immigrants and refugees, nonprofits that serve deaf and hearing-impaired students, and schools that spark a love of science in their students. In addition to the grants to the school, the fund has awarded $2,500 to the League of Women Voters Education Fund for voter registration for newly immigrated citizens, $5,200 to immigrant and refugee programs run by Jewish Family & Community Services of Pittsburgh, and $2,500 to the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech.
Marty, who had a doctorate in physical and organic chemistry from the University of Delaware, authored many technical papers and held several patents for industrial coating products and processes. The family lived for a time in New Jersey and Delaware, and later in Louisville, Kentucky, where Marty was director of research and development at a materials research laboratory. But following his moral compass, he refused to work on any project with a military purpose.
After retiring, he served as an instructional volunteer in Kentucky public schools, where he helped students experience the wonders of science.
“He loved introducing kids to the world of chemistry and physics, showing them ‘magic tricks’ using color, water, flow and candles,” Fredric says.
Mollie, who had a psychology degree from Syracuse, shared Marty’s dedication to education. While their children were still very young, she took night classes at Seton Hall to become a licensed speech pathologist and began teaching in elementary schools. She gained a reputation as a gifted special education teacher known for her skill in helping children with disabilities beyond hearing impairment, such as cerebral palsy and blindness.
But no issue was more important to the Prices than helping immigrants thrive in this country. After they moved to Kentucky, Mollie earned a master’s in education and used her speech training and English-as-a-Second-Language certification to help new immigrants learn English and improve their pronunciation, so they would have better work opportunities. The couple organized dinner parties and teas for families and students from dozens of countries, including Romania, Vietnam and China. In the 1990s, they opened their home to a young Chinese engineering student, providing him a place to live, teaching him English and even giving him driving lessons. This concern for immigrants continued when they moved to Pittsburgh in 2007 to be closer to Rosanne and her children, and to Fredric who was then a gynecological oncologist at West Penn Hospital in Shadyside.
After Mollie died in 2018, the Price children had their mother’s body interred with Marty’s on Dec. 26 of that year, which would have been their 70th wedding anniversary. Friends, neighbors and former students who had benefited from their generosity made gifts to the fund in their memory. As the Price children prepare to make the first round of grants since their parents’ deaths, Rosanne finds her emotions swaying from joyful recollection to overwhelming grief.
“Our parents were just wonderful, kind, thoughtful people. They are such an inspiration to me. We always knew we would start a fund to honor them, and I’m so glad we got to do it while they were still around to enjoy it.”
Original story appeared in the Forum Quarterly Summer 2019.