A Teacher’s Lasting Legacy
With a passion for making a difference in the lives of those around her, the list of contributions Viola Hall made to the Central New York community seems endless. Known as ‘a friend to those in need,’ she felt strongly about making sure her impact would live on.
Hall graduated from the Syracuse City Normal School in the early 1930s and later attended Syracuse University, where she earned her Bachelors and Master degrees. She began her teaching career at Galeville Liverpool’s Salt City School in 1938. While there, she wrote Marching Forward through the Years which chronicled the area’s history to help future generations remember ‘Galeville’ and its salt-baron founder Thomas Gale. Making sure to honor and remember the past was always an important value of hers. Hall went on to spend 34 years as an educator and administrator in the Syracuse City School District. She taught at the Cleveland and Sumner elementary schools and served as principal for Cleveland, Frazer and Seymour Elementary.
Many remember Hall best as principal of the Frank C. McCarthy School, where she established a special education program for children in 1966. This was a cause that was always near and dear to her heart, having grown up with a sister who was mentally challenged. For 12 years, the special education program changed the way people thought about mental disabilities and gave these children the opportunity to learn in a welcoming and accepting environment.
In an interview upon her retirement in 1978 Hall explained, “The children in special education are the most wonderful children. We think and treat them as normal boys and girls coming to school to learn.”
At that time the program gave children a chance for education, which was something many were deprived of due to the inaccessible school structure. Hall’s efforts and the success of the program were praised by many and she was named ‘Woman of the Year’ by the Syracuse Charter Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association in 1967.
Upon retiring from her 40 years in the education field, Hall began to look back at the life she had created and how she wanted those around her to remember her service to the community even after she passed on. Through thoughtful planning with the Community Foundation, Hall left behind a legacy of generosity that the Foundation will use to carry out her charitable wishes.
In 1994 Hall named the Central New York Community Foundation the irrevocable beneficiary of her life insurance policy to establish a permanent charitable fund, the Viola M. Hall Fund. This field-of-interest fund now supports organizations that benefit children and education.
“I love to help children and so does the Community Foundation,” she once told us. “When I die, I know the Foundation will use the income from my fund to make grants to benefit children.”
Hall passed away in 2015, but her fund at the Community Foundation will continue to grow in perpetuity and will ensure her commitment to helping others carries on.