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Some of our Stories

Here are some of our stories and UUSM ancestors who have helped shape who we are today.

Image by Tegan Mierle


Mary was born September 18, 1931 to Clara Frances and Lucian Albert Coleman in Indianapolis, Indiana.

She was educated in Indianapolis Public Schools, graduated from Noblesville High School, and received

her B.A. and Master's Degrees from Butler University. She taught over 40 years, first in Indianapolis public

schools and then in the San Mateo/Foster City Elementary School District.


As a fourth grade teacher she was an advocate of Science and Math and enthusiastically participated in NASA's Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. She implemented aerospace education into the curriculum and took her fourth graders to Cape Canaveral, Florida. These efforts earned her wide recognition, including NASA's "Down to Earth" Award, inclusion in Who's Who in America, and Teacher of the Year honors from the California Association of Aerospace Educators. In March, 2006, she was inducted into San Mateo County's Women's Hall of Fame, and received the San Mateo NAACP Branch Leonard Carter Award. Both honors were for Outstanding Community Service.


She worked diligently in her Unitarian Universalist Church where she helped establish and chaired the "Open Door Committee" whose purpose is to promote racial diversity, and exposure of African Americans in the Arts. Mary was a Life Member of the National Education Association (NEA), California Retired Teachers Association (CRTA), Civil Air Patrol/Aerospace Educators, American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Business Women's Association (ABWA) American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Life Member of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).


Mary's winning personality and her little dog, Sally Ride Hollis, brought much joy to her many friends and associates. Few individuals have the privilege of community involvement during their lifetime as did our beloved retired teacher, Mary Frances Hollis. For her courage to deal with physical challenges and her willingness to serve wherever there was a need, she will be remembered and missed. A public Celebration of Life Program will be held on Saturday, August 19, 2006, from 2:30 to 5:00 p.m. in Beck Hall at the Unitarian Universalist Church of San Mateo.

- Excerpts of Mary's obituary published by San Mateo County Times on Aug. 17, 2006.

Frances Hollis Sanders_edited.png
Subject: UUSM's connections with the NAACP, San Mateo Branch


A couple of days ago I was reflecting on all our connections with the NAACP. I thought of so many, I kept writing them down.  I don’t expect this information will be in the used in tomorrow’s service, I just thought you all would be interested.


 'In the early 1980’s, our denomination offered study groups called How Open the Door? regarding white racism in our churches.  Mary Hollis and Chuck Van Houten then formed the  Open  Door committee, which has been very active since then. However, this committee was eliminated a couple of years ago from our congregation's budget and has been active in an ad hoc way since. In the late1990’s, we put on a denomination created weekend workshop on White Privilege.  Our African American community friends helped us.


UUSM members have:

- been members of the our NAACP Branch for over 20 years

- attended monthly business meetings

- taken on committee responsibilities: Education, Fund Raising, Housing, connecting with city and county government personnel and attending SM County Board meetings

- joined with other NAACP members in presenting the SM County MLK Day celebration at the San Mateo train station

- attended and worked on the Branch annual Herby Dawkins Fundraising Banquet, especially the Silent Auctions

- sold tickets at our coffee hours for the Banquet and two of our members also acted as photographers for the event

- belonged to the Branch Executive Committee

- presented Black History Month celebrations on two different occasions

- hosted the annual Dr. King reception at UUSM, attended by many members of the Branch

- attended various Black community  events, such as concerts, Gospel singing, a celebration luncheon for Dr. Hutchinson, the popular Black doctor in San Mateo

- invited Branch members to Rev. Meyer’s installation and Pam Gehrke’s ordination.

- held leadership roles in organizing Branch receptions.

- helped run Branch elections on two different occasions.


NAACP Branch members have been supportive of UUSM events, attending many events. The NAACP San Mateo Branch has given us 4 awards for community  service--three individuals and one for our congregation as a whole .


When Willie Brown spoke at the most recent banquet he surveyed the attendees and said he had never seen such a diverse group at an NAACP banquet.

- Memories shared by Gretchen Warner, Feb 20, 2021

From the Daily Journal archives

Art show honors MLK memory

By Kristin Wartman, Daily Journal Reporter.  Jan 16, 2001 Updated Feb 20, 2018

With a commitment to displaying the works of African-American artists from the Bay Area, the Open Door Committee hosted the 12th Annual Ethnic Art Show in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Unitarian-Universalist Church in San Mateo on Saturday.

Mary Hollis, Chairperson of the Open Door Committee, said the show has grown over the years thanks to the supporters of the committee.

A recent member of the committee said her participation began shortly after joining the Unitarian-Universalist congregation.


"It's important for the church to think about -- and be open to -- people of all backgrounds," Wendi Gansen said. "It's important to explore how different people live, and to bring more diversity to the church." The exhibit featured several painters and one doll maker. Alma White, whose company is called Expressions of Ebony, has been making dolls for 15 years.


"When I was a young girl I never had any black dolls -- they were all white," she said. "When I had my daughter I decided to start making dolls because I wanted her to have black dolls. Then I just fell in love with making dolls."


One woman at the show purchased a doll from White and had her sign it for her daughter. White said she has more than 150 dolls in her home in Palo Alto.


Another artist, Janet Foster, has displayed her drawings and paintings in the art show for about six years. "I'm glad to show my art, I get a lot of joy out of it," she said.


One of the church's walls was covered in the poetry and artwork of school children who won awards in last year's Essay and Poetry Contest, also in honor of Dr. King.


The 20 to 30 people in attendance sang 'Happy Birthday' to Dr. King over a cake made by Kathy's Kreative Kakes of San Mateo, which displayed a picture of King.


One woman -- Edna Burns Beaird-Smith, a pioneer in the civil rights movement from the 1950s and 1960s -- told the crowd that people need to continue to do work for civil rights.


"Let's roll up our sleeves and do some work like we did in the 1950s and 1960s," she said. "Let's fight."

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