Florence Tetreault was a unique woman. She lived quietly and
by her own rules. An alumna and former faculty member, she
worked hard and lived frugally.
As a professor of Math, she extolled the virtues of compound
interest and prudent investing.
“It’s not how much money you make,” she would say, “it’s how
much you can save.”
Over her lifetime – and she lived to 96 – she saved quite a
bit. She used those funds to create the Florence G. Tetreault
Scholarship and left a very substantial gift in her estate plan to endow the scholarship, so generations of students can afford a Detroit Mercy education.
Alan Moore knew Tetreault for more than 40 years. They met at a metro Detroit McDonald’s where Tetreault was a regular and where Moore and his mother would grab a cup of coffee. The friendship grew and, while Tetreault was teaching, Moore’s mother, a nurse, looked after Tetreault’s aging parents. Tetreault’s parents passed away, then Moore’s mother, but the two of them carried on a friendship that led to Moore becoming the trustee of Tetreault’s estate.
“I called her my aunt,” Moore said. “And she said she inherited me. We talked three times a day.”
Moore said Tetreault, who earned a scholarship to study Math at University of Detroit and was hired as a faculty member in 1947, never married because she did not want to give up her independence. Furthermore, she said she worked too hard to earn her doctorate to give up her identity to a man.
To save money, she cut her own hair. When she ate out, it was usually a cheese sandwich and a water. She drove her cars for 15 years before replacing them and kept her home thermostat set in the 50s and piled on the sweaters.
“She was a very, very tough teacher,” Moore said. “She would tell me she had classes of 30 students at the start of the semester and that there would only be a few in class at the end of the semester. One time she flunked the entire football team.”
She was demanding, he said, because she understood the importance of education. “She devoted her life to the University and supported education her whole life,” Moore said. “She always felt she had the greatest life and the greatest parents and wanted to pay back what she called her debt to the school for giving her a scholarship.”
Tetreault was buried in her doctoral gown with mementos of the University alongside her. On the way to the cemetery, the hearse drove her by the home she shared with her parents for 70 years, then through Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus where she had visited for the last time about a year prior to her death. At that visit, she toured the University, spending time in the
Engineering building where she spent many happy years as a professor.
“When we got back into the car at the end of the visit, she said to me, ‘I’m very pleased with what I’ve done in creating this scholarship,’” Moore said. “Her goal was to create this scholarship, but I don’t think she had any idea how much of an impact it would make.”