Mary Robinson Spivey, 99: Last living female Morehouse grad

Mary Spivey wanted a replacement copy of her Morehouse College diploma, but she didn’t want to make a fuss or bring attention to herself. So she kept quiet.

But it was no secret that she loved Morehouse and valued the lessons she learned while in school there.

“She was proud that she could say she graduated from Morehouse,” said her daughter, Yvette Spivey Cooper, of Atlanta. “That was one thing she would talk about, but she didn’t talk much about herself.”

Spivey became interested in attending the traditionally male college after she learned her mother took classes there in the early 1900s. Family records indicate Spivey began her college studies when she was 15 and graduated when she was 19 with the class of 1933. School records say Spivey was the last living member of a group of 33 women who enrolled in and graduated from Morehouse between 1929 and 1933.

Though Spivey never asked, her alma mater learned of her desire for a replacement diploma and gave her one at the school’s 2011 graduation ceremony.

Mary Cecelia Robinson Spivey of Atlanta died Feb. 22 at Northside Hospital of natural causes. She was 99.

A funeral was held Saturday at Calvary United Methodist Church, Atlanta, followed by burial at South-View Cemetery. Murray Brothers Funeral Home, Cascade Chapel, was in charge of arrangements.

An Atlanta native, Spivey went on to enjoy a career in education after her graduation from Morehouse College. She earned a master’s degree at Atlanta University and did considerable work towards a doctorate, family members said.

In 1949 the former Mary Robinson married Elijah Spivey and the couple raised one daughter together. They had been married for 25 years when he died in 1974.

Mary Spivey worked as an educator in elementary and special education classrooms, and she worked with adults. In retirement she enjoyed working with several ministries within her church, said her granddaughter, Ebony Yvette Cooper Hairston, of Atlanta.

“Her first thought was never about herself,” Hairston said. “She was always thinking about someone else and doing for someone else.”

If there was something that needed to be done, Spivey found a way to do it without many people knowing, her grandchildren said.

“It was amazing the number of people who were around my grandmother, who didn’t know some of the things she’d done,” said her grandson, Ernest Cooper III, of Arlington, Texas.

Hairston said one of the most important lessons Spivey taught was to lead by example.

“And she showed us you didn’t have to have a lot to do a lot,” she said. “You just make good use of what you have.”

In addition to her daughter and grandchildren, Spivey is survived by two step grandsons; five great-grandchildren; and seven step-great grandchildren.