Cover photo for Mary Jane Roberts's Obituary
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Mary Jane Roberts

September 18, 1937 — January 16, 2024

Charleston

Mary Jane Roberts

Dr. Mary Jane Smalley Roberts, an accomplished teacher, education planner, and administrator, passed away January 16 at age 86. Mary Jane was the beloved wife of Dr. 

Paul Osborne Roberts Jr., of Charleston, South Carolina. 

The daughter of J. Bryan Smalley and Mary Katherine Troxler Smalley, Mary Jane was born September 18, 1937, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and grew up in Memphis. She taught French at The Hutchinson School while attending Southwestern at Memphis, now Rhodes College. After graduating first in her class and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, she received a coveted Fulbright Foundation Fellowship for language study at the University of Paris and the University of Bordeaux. She received an M.A. from Radcliffe College and a PhD. in romance languages and literature from Harvard University. During the doctoral program, she taught French at Wellesley College. 

She moved in 1967 to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the assistant secretary for the U. S. Department of Education, leading educational improvement projects. This led to an appointment in 1979 as assistant commissioner for postsecondary education policy analysis in the New York State Education Department in Albany. 

She returned to Washington in 1981 to become deputy director of the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), which administers the Fulbright Scholar Program.  Mary Jane oversaw the scholar exchange, including the foreign diplomacy that kept scholars safe. She retired in 1996. 

Mary Jane was a member of the Washington National Cathedral, where she married in 1983, and she volunteered there as a docent. She loved leading tours of the cathedral, sharing her knowledge of medieval architecture and art. Her many art interests included opera, classical music and theater. 

She and her husband moved in 2000 to Kiawah Island, where they designed and built their new home with views of Killdeer Pond and the Kiawah River marsh. Active in the island’s social life, she led the KICA newcomers committee, co-led the Kiawah Book Club and organized a French Club, which helped maintain her language fluency. She loved the chance to immerse herself in language while traveling, including frequent trips to France. 

Active in Bishop Gadsden’s social life since moving there in 2015, Mary Jane served on the Finance Committee of the Residents Council, and she organized and managed a book club to continue her love of literature. She and her husband are long-time members of Grace Episcopal Church. 

Mary Jane is survived by her brother, Dr. J. Bryan (Carol Ann) Smalley, Jr., two stepsons, Scott Sillay Roberts and Lee Gibson (Janet) Roberts; three grandchildren, Morgan, Emily and Benjamin Roberts; and three adoring nieces and nephews, Mary Smalley Delametre, Harriet Smalley Monnig, and J. Bryan Smalley III. 

Her memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, February 3, 2024, in the chapel at Bishop Gadsden, 1 Bishop Gadsden Way, Charleston, S.C., with interment in the Bishop Gadsden Columbarium. Arrangements by J. Henry Stuhr, Inc. Downtown Chapel. 

Memorials may be made to Charleston Symphony Orchestra, 480 East Bay St, Charleston, SC 29403.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary Jane Roberts, please visit our flower store.

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Saturday, February 3, 2024

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