A Star Was Born
With the world at her feet, anything is possible
Mary Bibbey’s family took a leap of faith when she was a girl and the experience has elevated everything since then for the Brown University freshman.
Photos by Adam Lerner
Ten years ago, Mary Bibbey was eight and living in the UK with her British father, David, and American mother, M. Douglass Bibbey, when they sold their smart-home technology business and house, put everything in a shipping container, and hit the road to travel, destination unknown.
This fall, Bibbey began her freshman year at Brown University, studying business economics and joining the women’s track and field team as a middle-distance runner. “Both my brother Josh and I love the possibility of exploring. What we think is possible for us is bigger because of that trip,” Bibbey says, later adding, “Getting comfortable from meeting random people, you’re building the muscle of your own confidence.”
“It could easily have done us in,” father David says of the journey that brought the family through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Instead the trip gave Mary perspective and confidence, which became evident when the family landed in Woodbury to stay and Mary entered fourth grade at Mitchell Elementary School in 2009. “We had already experienced so many new things that it was just another step,” Bibbey recalls. “I remember sitting at my desk and deciding, ‘I’m going to be a great student.’”
She wasn’t kidding.
At Nonnewaug High School Bibbey was a three-sport captain—soccer, basketball, and track—achieving All-Star or All State status. She won the Berkshire League’s highest honor as a senior, the Ray Marinko Award, and was state champion in the 2000-meter steeplechase three years in a row—just getting edged out her senior year. “I’m really challenging myself to go a little further,” she says of running in the Ivy League. “That’s where I’m going to have to show who I am.”
She should have said “continue showing who I am.”
When Brown’s track coach scouted Bibbey at a basketball game, the biggest impression came when Nonnewaug gave up some points. Bibbey didn’t flinch, but upped her game and buoyed her team. “What he was looking for was the trait of an athlete who wouldn’t give up,” says David. “He chose her but she was put on the wait list.”
“It was not what I wanted to hear, but it was definitely a new challenge,” Bibbey remembers. “I had a period of time when I could prove myself. I wrote down in a notebook, ‘OK, I was waitlisted today and I’m not giving up.’” She enrolled in macroeconomics course at UConn to show her commitment, and targeted key grades, bringing her AP calculus average up to a 95. It worked. “I do feel like anything is possible,” Bibbey says. “I know I can put myself in a position to get there.”
That confidence comes from a long list of accomplishments. In her senior year Bibbey was Nonnewaug’s scholar athlete, and one of three young women in Connecticut selected for the All State Academic Award for the 2018 winter season. She was secretary of the National Honor Society, a Science Honor Society member, and vice president of the National Art Honor Society.
Her artwork is professional caliber. Mary won a Gold Key, Gold Portfolio, and Silver Portfolio awards in the 2018 Connecticut Regional Scholastic Art Awards, and her a color pastel of horn player Don Harris won an American Visions Award, qualifying the work for the national competition. The University of Hartford’s art school offered her a scholarship of $20,000 a year if she attended, as did Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts.
But for now it’s Brown, and later, surely the world. “The world is not so foreign once you start putting faces to the countries you’ve been to,” Bibbey says, “the world becomes a little more connected.”