Feature Stories Alumni: Mary Louise Nunes ’83 and her pillars of philanthropy

VIP donor & alumna
Nunes inspires students to academically succeed by establishing scholarships and an endowment fund.
Feature Stories Alumni: Mary Louise Nunes ’83 and her pillars of philanthropy
Mary Louise Nunes ’83 and her pillars of philanthropy

It was love at first ledger when Nunes began her career in the mid-1980s. Now, she instills that same love for accounting in current UMassD students with her philanthropy.

In North Boston, a stained-glass window graces St. Leonard of Port Maurice Church with its vibrant hues and intricate design, a cerulean two-pillar archway with an amethyst center. When sunlight streams through its pane, a kaleidoscopic pattern of blues, reds, and purples shimmer upon all churchgoers who worship in oak pews, but especially Mary Louise Nunes ’83. 

“My husband, Randall Mello, and I have donated to St. Leonard of Port Maurice Church for years because the pastor, Fr. Antonio, was very good to my father before his passing. We ended up having a stained-glass window installed in my parents’ memory,” Nunes said, inspired to offer consistent financial support of this church based on an intimate connection that tugged at her heartstrings.

Similar to the window’s imagery, the pillars of Nunes’ philanthropy stand tall and resolute on a foundation built of compassion, empathy, and a steadfast belief in the power of giving back. While one pillar may symbolize her deep-rooted commitment to spirituality and community, the other pillar embodies her unwavering support of UMass Dartmouth, her alma mater, and its continued prosperity as a thriving public research institution that provides opportunities of higher learning to local, national and international students.

These are hand-picked causes that fill Nunes with a fiery passion from her own personal experiences with them. She explained, “In general, philanthropy is not about others’ interests. If people give to the causes that they feel most passionate about, then everything will fall into place.”

Stained glass window for Nunes' parents
Pictured above is the stained glass window that was installed to remember Nunes' parents.

An Unforgettable Education

As a local native, Nunes always knew affordable higher education resided right in her backyard at UMass Dartmouth. Like many Corsairs today, she wanted access to opportunities that would allow her wings to spread, and she didn’t have to venture too far from the bird’s nest to accomplish that. As an accounting student at UMass Dartmouth (then Southeastern Massachusetts University), she was offered exceptional learning experiences that transformed her into the successful professional she was destined to become.

“I think my education was really well-balanced,” Nunes said. “The accounting program didn’t just teach you about debits or credits or financial statements. It was more than that. It was, ‘this is one way to do the transaction, but what are you going to do if the client does the transaction this way?’ As the accountant, you have to adapt to the client, and the soft skills I learned are something that I use every day.”

While enjoying her college years, the professors in the Department of Accounting and Finance left an impression on Nunes because of the genuine interest they took in their blossoming scholars. She said, “My professors used to go to the National Accounting Association (now the Institute of Management Accountants) meetings and got really involved with their students. On more of a joking note, there was a group of us students that would have law class on Friday afternoons and then go to the Rat or Muldoon’s in downtown New Bedford. We had our fair share of fun in addition to studying.”

Graduating from SMU in the 1980s equipped Nunes with valuable accounting skills that opened the door for her to start her own firm just one year after becoming a certified public accountant, now known as Nunes & Charrier, LLC. Located right in the heart of New Bedford, she said of her booming business, “I just always wanted my own firm, and it’s really grown since 1988. It’s small, but known for its good work. We have clients from all over the world. I do a lot of estate and trust work.”

Nunes also has her master’s degree in taxation from Northeastern University, is a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), and holds a  Certified in Financial Forensics designation, which included testifying on the stand in select cases and before the grand jury. She was also the first Chair of the IMA’s (Institute of Management Accountants) National Committee on Students and president of the IMA’s Northeast Regional Council in 1996.

When glimpsing into her past and surveying her accomplishments, Nunes credits her career success to her extraordinary experiences at UMass Dartmouth, which fuels her desire to give back to her alma mater. She never forgot where she cultivated her expertise in accounting principles and where she assured future generations of Corsairs would continue do the same.

Time to give back

Nunes’ philanthropic journey began not with monetary donations, but with the contribution of her time and sharing her love for providing students with real world experiences. Her efforts to stay connected to the Corsair community was first acknowledged with a spotlight article written by UMassD’s student-run newspaper, The Torch, that commended her work as a volunteer consultant on tax issues for the Alumni Association and Financial Aid offices.

Article written in the Torch
A snippet of the article written about Nunes in the UMassD student-run newspaper, The Torch.

“I’m a firm believer that you should never forget where you came from,” Nunes previously said in the article, something she still firmly believes. “I was a student once, and I always try to make time to help students who need my advice or guidance. You have to give back and expect nothing in return. You’ve already gotten something—your education. Now, it’s time to give back.”

That same sentiment is echoed in every philanthropic action Nunes has taken since then. With a focus on students in the Charlton College of Business, she often cleared her schedule to return to campus as a budding professional to speak with students and taught a tax class as a guest lecturer. As Nunes generously gave her time to students, she also donated whatever funds she could as her career successfully unraveled.

Nunes said, “I think donating is very important, whether it’s in a small or big way. Every dollar counts. I used to be able to give $25 to $50, but now, I’m able to give more. Whatever the amount you can give, it’s all going to help students and the university as a whole in the end.”

Now a triumphant leader in the region’s accounting industry, Nunes has had the capability to do just that: give more. She has established the Nunes-Mello Family Scholarship, contributes to the Blue & Gold Endowed Scholarship that benefits deserving students, and has an endowment fund to enrich academic programming for CCB students.

“It was just time to take the next step and attract strong students who are interested in accounting or finance to UMass Dartmouth. When you have enjoyed a successful career, you have a responsibility to share it with the next generation,” said Nunes. “I also want to try and eliminate some of the burden that comes along with paying for school. We can certainly reach out and help additional students in the SouthCoast region.”

As Nunes became more involved with UMass Dartmouth philanthropically, she was also inspired to bring her volunteer work to a higher level by joining the UMass Dartmouth Foundation Board, which supports the scholarly development and personal growth of UMass Dartmouth and its students. On reasons why, she simply said, “UMass Dartmouth and the Charlton College of Business is where my heart is.”

As Nunes continues to support her two pillars of philanthropy, she embodies the spirit of service that lies at the heart of giving back and serves as an inspiration for all who wish to make a real difference in the world. Through her generous giving of her time, expertise, and funds, Nunes has become a pillar of strength in her own right, guiding us toward a brighter and more compassionate future.