Sister Mary Fulbright

Obituary of Sister Mary Venard Fulbright

Sister Mary Venard Fulbright, of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, former Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and Director of the UTA School of Social Work Community Service Development Center, passed away May 23, 2024.

Vigil: 2:00 p.m. Sunday, June 9, 2024 at Thompson's Harveson & Cole with a reception following until 4 p.m. 

Mass of Christian Burial: 11:00 a.m. Monday, June 10, 2024 at Holy Family Catholic Church, 6150 Pershing Avenue, Fort Worth.  

Burial: 2:30 p.m. Monday at Rosemound Cemetery, 3201 S 12th St, Waco, TX. 

Memorials: In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to  Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, 909 West Shaw St, Fort Worth, Texas 76110-4057.

In Celebration of the Remarkable Life of Sr. Mary Venard Fulbright

On January 15, 1930, the world was blessed with the birth of Mary Louise Fulbright. She was the first daughter and 5th child born to Henry Grady and Anne Beaty Fulbright of Waco, Texas and she was special.  Surrounded by four older brothers—Buddy, John, Lloyd, and Edward—and later joined by her beloved sister, Martha, Mary's life was always infused with love and companionship.  She attended Sacred Heart Academy from 1st -11th grade when the school was closed.  She graduated from Waco High School in May 1947. In the spring of 1947, Mary announced she was going to join the convent and become a sister of St. Mary of Namur.  Her mom asked her if she realized that she would have to give up so many things that she loved – dances, football games, parties and more.  She replied, “Yes, I do.  That’s why I have decided to do all of them so often before now.”  

Family, Rita, her dearest friend, and her fellow Sisters meant everything to Mary.  She loved and confided in them often.  Mary also loved being surrounded by nature. Whether tending her garden or finding solace while camping beneath the towering sequoias of California, she recognized the divine presence in every leaf, stone, and living creature.  And she always held a special place in her heart for all of her kitty’s.   

Mary lived her life with passion and purpose. Once she joined the convent, she dedicated her life to God and his people.  Her faith in God and her passion for education fueled her days.  From teaching in multiple schools from Texas to California, being a principal or superior in several of them, to being Director of the Catholic Education Center and Superintendent of the Catholic Schools of the Ft. Worth Diocese for 12 years, she touched innumerable lives.  It is said that if you look for someone with a problem, you will find Mary Fulbright working toward a solution.  Peter Gaupp, former director of the Community Services Development Center, calls her the “…creative genius behind the design and creation of the experimental Cone Head Start Center in Dallas.”  She served as the research and development director of the innovative program where her findings have brought changes in National Head Start policies.  She was a co-founder and executive director of The Casata Learning Center where she designed the instructional program for high school dropouts to earn their GED.  And finally, she retired as Director of the Community Services Development Center at UTA.  In addition, she served as a member of the Adult Girl Scout Network and was on the board of directors for The Community Outreach Center (Aids services).  She served on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Ft. Worth and on the Tarrant Area Community of Churches board of directors. Preschool students, as well as citizens of all ages, benefited from Mary’s efforts.  Mary designed the plans and secured the funding for a Primary Health Care Clinic in Oak Cliff.  The clinic was subsequently one of the first clinics to be brought under the umbrella of the Parkland Hospital Community Clinics.  

Mary was awarded Distinguished Alumni of the University of Texas at Arlington in 1994.  She was also awarded Social Worker of the Year 1994 for The Tarrant County Chapter.  She received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 from the National Association of Social Workers, Tarrant County Unit.

Sister Mary Fulbright was a champion for oppressed people and fought discrimination whenever she encountered it.  She had an uncanny ability to connect with people. Her door was always open, and she welcomed everyone with open arms. She touched countless hearts and left an indelible mark on so many lives.  She led an extraordinary life and was a true beacon for justice, kindness, hope and love.

Sister Fulbright was preceded in death by her parents, four brothers, her sister-in-law, Peggy Fulbright, and brother-in-law, Jim Verme. 

Sister Mary Venard Fulbright is survived by her sister, Martha Verme, of Potomac, Maryland, by Rita Cotterly, her dear, life long friend and fellow sisters of St Mary of Namur; her sisters-in-law, Anna Fulbright of Waco, JoEllen Fulbright formerly of Waco, and Marilyn Fulbright of Dallas.  She is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews and great, great nieces and nephews.


The following article was published in the UTA Magazine in 1994 

Look for someone with a problem, and you will find Mary Fulbright working toward a solution.

Fulbright who earned her master’s degree in social work in 1970, currently serves as director of the UTA School of Social Work community Services Development Center.  Her UTA career began as a member of the Graduate School of Social Work’s first class.  “The school was just beginning,” she said. “ I believed in the likelihood of greater flexibility in a social work program that was just beginning rather than one that was entrenched.

“And it was a model education program. The professors were very amenable to requests and suggestions from students.”

Fulbright previously had worked as a teacher and school administrator.  After graduation from UTA, she served as director of the Catholic Education Center and superintendent of school, Diocese of Fort Worth.  And she kept looking for solutions.

In the late 1970’s Fulbright founded and directed the Cassata Learning Center in Tarrant County, where she designed an instructional program for high school dropouts.

She also founded and directed the Parental Assistance Program, where she developed a program to teach parenting skills to aid Families with dependent children, parents, and to provide day care in privates homes for unsupervised children.

In recent years, she has worked to find and improve model of preschool education.  Retired UTA Professor Peter Gaupp, former director of The Community Services Development Center, calls her the “…creative genius behind the design and creation of the experimental Cone Head Start Center in Dallas.”  Fulbright serves as the program development and research director of the innovative program where her research findings have brought changes in national federal Head Start policies.

Preschool students benefit from Fulbright’s efforts as do citizens of all ages.  She currently serves as a member of the Adult Girl Scout Network, on the Community Outreach Center (AIDS Services) board of directors, on the Habitat for Humanity of Fort Worth board of directors and on the Tarrant Area Community of churches board of directors.

Along with her UTA social work students, Fulbright successfully took on the task of creating a neighborhood health center in Oak Cliff.  She also has worked to improve services for the elderly, substance abusers, the homeless, abused women and their children, Aids patients and Alzheimer’s patients.

Fulbright credits ne experience at UTA with convincing her that people can achieve almost anything if they go about, it in a smart way.

“That first class of graduate social work students convinced the appropriate authorities at UTA to change a parking area from faculty/staff to student parking,” she explained. “I knew that if we were able to do that, a person could do anything. 

But not everything is easy. Fulbright’s return to UTA in 1982 caused her some worry.

“I feared that my bubble would burst,” she said. “I had a wonderful experience here as a student, and I feared things might be different.  But it has been a very pleasant experience for me to t=be back at the school.”

And it has been a pleasant experience for the school to have Fulbright back. 

“For the past thirteen years she has been instrumental in annually raising many thousands of dollars for the School of Social Work,” Gaupp said. “She is considered by social work students to be and excellent guest lecturer and is, in my view, the finest undergraduate and graduate field instructor that the school has had for many years.”