Mikayla Downey’s work term at NL Eats was made possible by the Fry Family Foundation.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp
Mikayla Downey’s work term at NL Eats was made possible by the Fry Family Foundation. Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

WHAT IF WRITING a letter could lead to a life-changing impact on the lives of more than one thousand Memorial students and future leaders? Would you write that letter?

Darryl Fry, ONL (Dip.Eng.’59, B.Sc.’59, LLD’97) did.

Darryl and Marlene Fry PHOTO: SUBMITTED

In 1996, Dr. Fry was Chairman and CEO of Cytec Industries Inc., a global specialty chemicals and materials technology company. As he reflected on his life, he was brought back to his childhood in Newfoundland and Labrador and his education at Memorial University.

“My mother painted higher education as a gateway to the world,” said Dr. Fry. “There was no question about me going to Memorial University.”

His teachers, both in school and in life, had made him the person he was today and he was struck with the idea to pay it forward. In the time it took him to write a letter, speak with legal counsel and discuss it with his wife and confidante, Marlene Fry, the Fry Family Foundation was born.

The letter was addressed to Dr. Arthur May, OC (B.Sc.(Hons.)’58, M.Sc.’64, D.Sc.’89), then president and vice-chancellor of Memorial. The initial idea was to endow five scholarships, and Dr. May was immediately on board.


Valerie Piercey (B.Eng.’03, B.Ed.(Post Secondary)’17) was an inaugural recipient of the Charlotte Penwell Dolimount Memorial Scholarship, named in honour of Marlene Fry’s grandmother. The recipient of 15 scholarships, Ms. Piercey says that this one had a special impact on her.

“At the scholarship dinner they gave each of us a PalmPilot, which was the latest and greatest technology at the time,” she said. “It was so evident how much they cared.”

Coco Leung, B.Mus.(Hons.)’12, Fry Family Foundation Junior Leadership (Horizons) Award recipient, 2004. PHOTO: KEN YANAGISAWA

Dr. Fry grew from an entrepreneurial young boy who collected bottles and scrap metal and delivered The Evening Telegram in his neighbourhood – before newspaper delivery was organized – to become the first CEO born in Newfoundland and Labrador to have his company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Similarly, the Fry Family Foundation went from funding five entrance scholarships at Memorial University to giving more than $5 million to Newfoundland and Labrador causes, with the biggest portion going to the education of over 1,000 students.

In 2021, under the leadership of Fry family members Paul and Marie Burt, the Foundation expanded its focus to include leadership development and community engagement. They have partnered with the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, Genesis, Centre for Social Enterprise, MUN Botanical Garden, GeoCentre, Marine Institute and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science to offer entrepreneurial and social enterprise work terms and internships. These programs support groups such as Newfoundland and Labrador women and immigrant entrepreneurs, highschool and university students and rural Newfoundland and Labrador communities.

Lucas Walters, B.Sc.(Hons.)’19, Fry Family Foundation Undergraduate Leadership Award recipient, 2018. PHOTO: SUBMITTED

Since receiving one of those first scholarships, Ms. Piercey has become an electrical instructor at the Marine Institute and a member of the scholarship committee. It inspired her to offer a gift of her own.

“The impact that the Foundation had on me prompted me to establish a scholarship in memory of my brother-in-law who was tragically killed in a hunting accident,” said Ms. Piercey. “It is a wonderful way to honour him.”


Mikayla Downey is a mechanical engineering student in Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

She completed a community service learning work term, made possible by the Fry Family Foundation, with NL Eats, a social enterprise focused on battling food insecurity in the province through community, culture and cuisine.

This experience gave her a reminder of why she wants to join the engineering profession.

“Having community service learning work terms helps connect a future engineer to the profession,” Ms. Downey explained. “At NL Eats, I was able to add my voice to policy and plans that will actually effect change in our communities.”

Jessica Pelley, MPH’19, Fry Family Foundation Junior Leadership (Horizons) Award recipient, 2014. PHOTO: SUBMITTED

On Sept. 16, 2021, a reception was held to celebrate the Foundation’s long-term support of Memorial University. When event organizers started reaching out to students and alumni who have received support from the Fry Family Foundation, words of gratitude and appreciation came flooding in. These heartfelt messages were compiled into a booklet for Darryl and Marlene Fry.

After 25 years of partnering with Memorial, there is no slowing down for the Fry Family Foundation, which now has three generations of family members as trustees.

“Paul and Marie are progressing into exciting new programs and modernizing operations,” said Dr. Fry. “I still love the business world and am proud of my associates, but I feel sorry for my peers who did not write that first letter and get deeply involved with the givers of the world. It has been a godsend for me.”