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Martha Papworth O'Neill Memorial Scholarship

In 2011, Margot C. Jacoby established the Martha Papworth O’Neill Memorial Scholarship in memory of her daughter. The endowment fund was created by gifts from friends, family, and community members that knew Martha. The first scholarship in Martha’s name was awarded in 2011. Each year the Martha Papworth O’Neill Memorial Scholarship celebrates a non-traditional student enrolled in humanities and social sciences (or a student that exhibits financial need and academic merit) who continues the values modeled by Martha during her lifetime. 

Martha was born June 21, 1979 in Salem, Virginia. She was the daughter of Margot and Douglas Jacoby and Edwin and Rebekah Papworth and was dearly loved by her family and friends.

Martha graduated with honors from Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, NY. While attending she was a resident assistant, editor for the campus newspaper, and research assistant for Dr. John Robert Greene. She was also Vice President for Phi Alpha Theta and Psi Chi. Martha continued her education and graduated from Lee University in Tennessee, earning a Bachelor of Science with honors in history. Martha was a traveler, always searching for new experiences and to expand her breadth of knowledge. 

Her time as a student allowed her to find her passion for teaching and history. She adored learning about other cultures and even taught English while in China. She documented her experiences through photos and journals during her travels to 13 different countries including China, Chile, Peru, Turkey, and throughout Europe.

Martha truly is an inspiration. Her passion for teaching continued in 2007 at Jefferson Community College as an adjunct instructor and professional tutor. Martha was also a substitute teacher at Jefferson/Lewis BOCES, where she worked with special needs individuals. In addition, she served on the Cazenovia College’s Alumni Board of Directors. In the 2009-2010 academic year, she received the Phi Theta Kappa outstanding Part-Time Faculty Award at Jefferson Community College for her outstanding service and dedication to students.

Martha’s mother recalls her saying that when she started at Jefferson Community College she had found her “dream job” teaching reading and journalism while combining her inquisitiveness and sense of social justice. Along with teaching she participated in the Jefferson Community College Orchestra and sang in the chorus as well as taking part in the Heart Walk, Community Cup, and countless other community activities.  

At the age of 30, Martha Papworth O’Neill was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic sarcomatoid renal cell carcinoma, a rare kidney cancer. While on ventilators at the hospital, she married her long-time love, Bill O’Neill, who cared for and admired her deeply. Four months after her diagnosis, she passed away.

Martha is the true epitome of what it means to live. She loved, traveled, inspired, cared for, and influenced so many along her path. Martha fostered learning and strengthened education through her kindness and tender support of students, friends, acquaintances, and family.

The Jefferson Community College Foundation is forever grateful to Margot C. Jacoby and family for establishing this scholarship in memory of a woman who did so much for each life that she touched. Martha has left an inspirational legacy of commitment to learning and dedication to education. Through this scholarship she continues to influence and transform student’s lives to this day.