Louise “Weezie” LaBelle ’71 MA was the kind of high school teacher who would go out of her way to help students, providing support, guidance, and even, sometimes, food and clothes.
When she died in June, her niece, Kimberly Fearney ’97 (CLAS), ’19 MS, wanted to honor her in a way that reflected her caring personality and would help UConn students from Connecticut’s “Quiet Corner,” where she taught.
Working with the UConn Foundation, Fearney started a small fund that provides need-based scholarships to UConn students from Connecticut’s Windham County who want to become teachers. She also crowdfunded with her family to begin building the fund and hopes others who share her commitment to education and Windham County will donate as well.
“She affected so many people as a teacher and so many people have such fond memories of her. We’re really just trying to get the word out so we can grow the fund,” says Fearney, who is an associate vice president and chief compliance officer at UConn.
“Louise always put people before herself and always wanted to support those who needed it, so this is kind of a way for her to continue to do that.”
LaBelle taught social studies at Killingly High School for 32 years. She was a generous mentor to students who would come to visit her in Room 59.
“I went to the high school where she taught, so I saw the influence she had on a lot of students,” says LaBelle’s younger sister, Regina LaBelle. “It’s an area with a lot of poverty. She went out of her way to help those kids, not only in the classroom academically but afterward in a lot of unseen ways that we probably will never know. There are a few high school kids who really relied on her for guidance and, in some cases, basics like clothes and food. She provided support to young people who were otherwise marginalized.”
An education advocate and trailblazing feminist, LaBelle also was a supportive role model for her eight siblings and 16 nieces and nephews.
“She really helped raise all of us and was such a great inspiration in terms of getting our education. So many of us are in education because of her,” Fearney says.
LaBelle never married or had children of her own, but she would say, “I’ve had thousands of children,” referring to her high school students, her sister, Marguerite LaBelle, says.
“It is hard to convey how amazing Louise was and how she impacted so many people from our area in Connecticut’s “Quiet Corner,” Fearney says. “I’m so thankful that we can get the word out and hopefully grow the fund to help UConn students from our area.”