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The link between the Mayflower, the bard, and a pioneering researcher

Nancy McManus, J52, has history going for her. At Tufts, her father, aunt, and uncle all preceded her as Jumbos. Born Nancy Hopkins, she’s also a direct descendent of Stephen Hopkins, who sailed to these shores on the Mayflower in 1620.

Historians believe Hopkins’s maiden trans-Atlantic voyage from England in 1609, when he was shipwrecked in Bermuda, may have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. They also believe that his subsequent journey to Jamestown, Virginia, imbued him with enough knowledge to help his fellow colonists survive the Mayflower crossing and the harsh New England winter that met them on Cape Cod.

Needless to say, pioneering is in McManus’s blood.

It’s no surprise then that she was one of the first to give $100,000 to endow a new scholarship fund through the Tufts Financial Aid Initiative. As part of a drive to increase financial aid, Tufts is offering to match any newly established endowed scholarship of $100,000 or more, doubling the impact of these gifts. McManus named her scholarship the Hopkins Family Scholarship, in honor of her heritage.

The first in a field

When McManus was growing up, her father, Cleon Hopkins, A27, J52P, never gave her the option of not attending college. At Tufts, she quickly discovered something that would change her life forever: biology. “I was fascinated,” she says. “I took every biology course I could and eventually became premed.”

Lacking female doctors as mentors, McManus instead turned to laboratory work. She became involved in cutting-edge research on how the body’s cells fight off pathogens. This eventually led her to San Francisco, where she conducted research on one of the first samples of the AIDS virus, much of which was published in peer-reviewed papers.

Twenty years after retiring, McManus felt it was the right time to give back to Tufts, especially during an initiative that would double her gift.

“I just feel fortunate to be able to endow a scholarship. It will be here forever,” she says of her own piece of Tufts history.

For more information about endowing a scholarship through the Tufts Financial Aid Initiative, please contact Jeff Winey, director of principal and leadership gifts, at 617-627-5468 or