Alumni Stories

Mary Sue Gaines DePass

Educator, Mentor, Homecoming Queen

by Michelle McRuiz

Mary Sue Gaines DePass was crowned the First Black Homecoming Queen in the history of the University of New Mexico in 1968. She was also the first African American female to earn a position on the famous Chaparral Squad from 1969-1970.

Mary Sue Gaines DePassMary Sue resided in Hokona Hall and later in LaPosada. As a coed, she made her presence known in a number of activities. She was Women's Residence Sports Manager from 1968-69, on the Standards Board from 1969-70, and participated in the American Home Economics Club from 1968-70. Her love for the art of Modern Dance earned her a role in The Rites of Spring production. In her sophomore year, she was voted Omega Psi Phi Sweetheart. In 1970, she pledged Delta Signa Theta. She and her line Sorors chartered the first Black Sorority on the UNM Campus.

Ms. Gaines also earned her B.S. in Home Economics and a Minor in Sociology in 1971. Interviewed by George Flanagan from the San Diego Unified School District, she was hired. Completing her student teaching at Albuquerque High School, she headed to San Diego to begin her teaching career.

Her first teaching assignment was at Memorial Junior high School from 1971-1981. During her time there, she implemented a Nutrition Program using foods issued by the welfare system. The next project she requested was to start a program for an all boys class. The class was a success and came to be known as "Bachelor Survival". During her teaching career, she completed her M.S. in Counseling, along with a Pupil Personnel Credential in 1981.

In 1981, she was hired as a Counselor at Bell Junior High. In her three years at Bell, she took charge of the Outreach Program and made it grow from 25 students to over 200.

Virginia Foster, Principal at Samuel F. B. Morse took notice of her work ethic, high energy level and love for her students and offered her a Counseling position. This was a challenge she took on knowing what she was expected to do. Morse was an inner city school with a growing population of over 2,700 students and growing each year. She was later given an additional task as Scholarship Counselor. Through workshops, tutoring and tenacity, she would boast of a class that was awarded over $996,000. Other duties that Mary Sue was liaison for were Camp Enterprise, Rotary Youth Leadership, Women Inc., Golden Pyramid and Ankh and Links.

In 1993, Mary Sue was voted "Educator of the Year" by INROADS. Mama D or Queen Diva as she is affectionately called, retired in June 2009 from the San Diego Unified School District. However she maintains her connections through "Back To School Workshops For Parents And Students".

Other activities Mary Sue has been involved with include membership in the Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, lay member at Bethel AME Church and mentorship of at-risk youth.

Is she slowing down? By no means! Traveling to different countries has become one of her "Bucket List" goals. Alive and loving life she holds to one of her favorite mottos: It is not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived!


For questions or more information:

Alumni Relations Office
O: 505-277-5808
800-ALUM-UNM (258-6866)