Mary Virginia Conrad Riggins: FSC’s First Female Trustee

Mar 16, 2022

by FSC Staff

Florida Southern College is exploring its rich history this Women’s History Month, featuring several significant women who have helped form and shape the College as it stands today.

Mary Virginia Conrad Riggins played a prominent role in the history of Florida Southern College, serving in several capacities throughout her lifetime. A graduate of FSC, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1917, earning the position of Honor Walk. Later, she would serve as the first female member of the Board of Trustees, designated as an Alumni Trustee, from 1929-1931. Following that, she was twice elected President of the Alumni Association, in 1931 and again in 1937.

Serving as secretary, she was a part of the “Old Guard,” an alumni group for those who graduated before the College was moved to Lakeland.

Her mother, Lucy B. Conrad, was Dean of Women and College Dietitian for 10 years at Southern College in Southerland, Florida. Mary moved to Lakeland and worked as a receptionist at the Watson Clinic in town. She married Leonard Wallace Riggins, and together they had four children: Mary Riggins Branan, Virginia Riggins Hardin, Lucie Riggins Mack, and Leonard Wallace “Bob” Riggins, Jr. Their daughter Virginia also graduated from Florida Southern in 1941 with a B.S. degree, and was a member of the Kappa Gamma Tau sorority. Mary Conrad Riggins was an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, and she was also a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. In the 1950s, Governor Leroy Collins appointed her as a member of the State Welfare Board.

Her legacy continues at FSC, as her great niece, Lynn Hollis attended the College. Lynn would marry Mark C. Hollis, and together, they would become major philanthropists in Lakeland and at FSC funding scholarships and projects on campus, including the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings and Lynn’s Garden. Mark worked at Publix Super Markets for almost 60 years, rising to the position of President. The couple were married for 57 years and had three children, Clayton, Jack, and Dean.

Mary died on Sept. 1, 1989, at the age of 93.


Gerriann Schaad and Amy Skillen of the McKay Archives contributed to this work.

Sources:

“Come Alive ‘67 Judged Success.” The Southern (Lakeland, Florida), February 24, 1967. https://cdm15558.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/Southern/id/4823/rec/4.

“Eight Women Who Have Transformed Florida Southern College.” SouthernNews 62, no. 1, 2017, 28.

“Mary Branan Obituary - Tallahassee, FL.” Dignity Memorial, April 20, 2019. https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/tallahassee-fl/mary-branan-8261545.

“Mary Conrad Riggins (1896-1989).” Find a Grave. Ancestry.com, October 15, 2011. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/78525589/mary-conrad-riggins.

“Mary Virginia (Conrad) Riggins.” WikiTree, July 24, 2020. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Conrad-3940.

Thrift, Charles T., Jr., ed. Of Fact and Fancy…At Florida Southern College. Lakeland, Florida: Florida Southern College Press, 1979. https://archives.flsouthern.edu/digital/collection/p15558coll1/id/567.