September 10, 2010
Picture of health
One generous woman's lifetime dedicated to living and promoting a healthy lifestyle seeks to continue reaching out through a graduate fellowship in the Arnold School of Public Health.
Celebrating her 92nd birthday in January, Mary Elizabeth Newton of Columbia is the picture of good health in one's later years.
And because she has established a graduate fellowship in the Arnold School of Public Health, many others in South Carolina have a better chance at becoming healthier, too. The fellowship, in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, is intended specifically for students interested in providing health-related services to underserved areas in the Palmetto State.
A Lifetime of Health
A native South Carolinian, Newton learned as a young girl the importance of good health from her parents, who were early advocates for preventive health.
“I can’t even remember having a cold,” she said, recalling that her parents were attuned to healthy eating habits.
Newton began her professional career as a high school English and French teacher in Charleston. In 1950, she, her mother, and sister moved to Columbia after her father’s death, and Newton began teaching advanced business training to enlistees at Fort Jackson. She first witnessed health disparities while teaching those students, and vowed that one day she would do what she could to prevent needless suffering from preventable diseases and lack of health care.
Today, Newton is a role model in the campaign to promote healthy lifestyles, and thereby prevent many chronic diseases that plague the state and nation. Healthy lifestyles add to longevity and quality of life, she said, noting that she begins each day reading devotionals, completing crossword puzzles, and riding her stationary bike. She also enjoys giving piano lessons to international students and singing in her church’s senior choir.
Kimberly Butler, the first Newton Fellowship recipient, said Newton’s generosity has enabled her to conduct community health outreach while working on her doctorate in public health.
- "Miss Newton is a real fighter for preventive health opportunities in our communities, both in the expansion of health care to underserved groups as well as with educational programs."
--Kimberly Butler, Newton Fellowship recipient
Butler works for the Office of Community Services at Palmetto Health in Columbia, which connects people to primary care facilities and educational outreach involving cancer and diabetes prevention. Butler’s primary focus involves visiting schools to discuss teen pregnancy prevention.
“Miss Newton is a real fighter for preventive health opportunities in our communities, both in the expansion of health care to underserved groups as well as with educational programs,” Butler said. “My interests mirror hers in many respects, and that is why I’m so appreciative of receiving the fellowship she has provided me and others.”
Newton’s fellowship currently supports two additional fellows, Cecily Watkins and Patrice Davis, both masters’ degree candidates in the Arnold School of Public Health.
Newton said she is proud of the work the three graduate students are doing, and pleased that their work affects S.C.’s most vulnerable populations.