University of South Florida


The dreams of three mothers live on through USF student research scholarship

By Torie Doll, University Communications and Marketing

Three emeritus professors from the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences are honoring their mothers by providing students a gift that was unavailable to most women of their mothers’ generation – the gift of education.

The mothers of Catherine Batsche, Mary Armstrong and Roger Boothroyd grew up during the Roaring ‘20s and had dreams to attend college. But their educational and career aspirations were disrupted by the Great Depression followed by World War II, resulting in them instead devoting their lives to motherhood.

Mary, Roger, Catherine, and Catherine's sister with their moms smile for a group picture

From back left: Mary, Roger, Catherine's sister, Catherine, Alice, Ruth and Ellen. [Photo Courtesy: Catherine Batsche]

They instilled the importance of education in their children, and Armstrong and Boothroyd, who are married, and Batsche became the first in their families to graduate from college. The trio met in the early ‘90s when they joined USF as faculty and discovered their shared passion for mentoring students in research. Today, they’re carrying on their mothers’ legacies through the creation of The Moms Project, a mentoring and scholarship program for undergraduate students who conduct research in areas that their mothers were passionate about: substance use disorders, nutrition and positive aging.

“We thought a way to honor our mothers, who were not able to go to college, would be to have an undergraduate research scholarship program,” said Batsche, daughter of Ellen Nizzi. “There’s a great deal of pride in being able to support the students because they’re very eager, committed and optimistic about their future, and having this undergraduate research experience will help them get into graduate school and help with their future careers.”

Nizzi, now 102 years old, finally achieved her lifelong dream of going to college and graduated at the age of 90 with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. It took her 13 years and during that time she became a role model on positive aging for her younger classmates. Nizzi’s strong mind and good health inspired her scholarship to support research related to positive aging and improving quality of life.

“I’ve learned that a key to positive aging is having goals and meaningful projects,” Nizzi said. “Getting a college degree was a lifelong dream for me. I want others to know that if I can do it, they can too. I hope The Moms Project helps others achieve their dreams.” 

The late Ruth Boothroyd, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 95, wanted to become a dietitian. But her dreams were put aside when her husband was called by the U. S. Marine Corps to serve during World War II. Instead, she worked as a civilian dental assistant for the U.S. Navy. The scholarship in her honor is awarded to students conducting research on topics related to wellness and nutrition.

Six students show their undergraduate research scholarship certificates

This year's scholarship recipients. [Photo Courtesy: Molly Urnek, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences]

“We were all amazed at the quality of the work students could do in such a short period of time, and we wanted to support that, so we’re pleased that because this is an endowed scholarship, it’ll go on even after we’re not here,” said Ruth's son, Roger Boothroyd.

The Moms Project scholarship is also awarded to students conducting research on topics related to substance abuse prevention, effective interventions or improving methods of communication to caregivers about access to resources. It’s in honor of the late Alice Armstrong, who struggled to find her son help to overcome substance use disorder and found it difficult to cope with not being able to do more.

“My brother’s alcoholism was so hard for my mom and dad, so I feel great gratitude that work in this area is being carried on and that we’ve had some role in continuing it,” said Mary Armstrong, whose mother Alice passed away in 2014 at the age of 96.

The Moms Project has funded 44 student scholarships since being established in 2012. Click here to learn more about how to honor your mother by making a contribution to The Moms Project in her name.

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