Marilyn (Nordale) Stacy ‘45: The Path Less Taken
At a time when many women’s paths followed predictable lines, Marilyn (Nordale) Stacy ‘45 chose a different route for herself. After graduating from CHS, she studied English and History at the University of Washington, earning a BA in 1949 and her teaching certificate in 1950. This was only the beginning of her educational pursuits, however, which culminated years later with an MA in French Literature in 1961 and a career teaching at the University of Washington.
The story of this adventurous woman’s education tells only one part of the bigger picture. After five years of teaching high school in the 1950s, Marilyn decided to buy a one-way plane ticket to France, leaving with little more than $200 in purse. This initial leap into the unknown changed from a planned, two-week stay to one that lasted over two years and led to a life-long love of the country, which she’s visited many times since.
She was able to stay for so long on that visit because she sensed an opportunity while she was there. She had gone over as a camp counsellor and learned that there might be jobs for people who could teach English. After some maneuvering with a notoriously guarded secretary, Marilyn managed to get in to see the director of the National Department of Education and was offered a position as an English assistant in a small village in the French Alps.
After a year teaching conversational English in Bourg d'Oisans, Marilyn recalls how Paris had begun to beckon. She’d managed to find a line on an apartment – no small feat in post-war Paris – but hadn’t yet secured a new job. When she asked monsieur le directeur about his thoughts on taking a chance, he was frank: “It’s far easier to get a job than an apartment. You take it.”
She went for it. “I thought that if I got a job, then I’d love to stay,” Marilyn notes. “All I had at that point was a half-packed trunk in Seattle and a limited supply of clothes.” Sure enough, things worked out beautifully, as it only took two weeks to receive an appointment as an assistant at Lycee Claude Monet in Paris. Shortly after, she also managed to earn her Certificat d’études françaises in 1957 from the University of Grenoble.
The significance of that time shines through in her words. “The place I was staying had a little shower and a little tiny kitchen,” she recalls, “but I made do because I had more than most people did in Paris at that time. It was nice, but my finances were very low. Still, I wanted to be independent. I didn’t do all the things that I could have if I had let others help, but I did see a lot of French life because I was immersed in the city. It was a wonderful experience.”
Though she didn’t often have the chance to indulge while living in Paris, she did accept a few small gifts from her parents. “The Brussels Fair was taking place,” she recalls, “and my parents sent me a cheque and said ‘go and enjoy.’ They also sent me a care package, which I saved so well that I didn’t end up eating most of the food. Mainly, I learned to be content with what I had.”
Her adventures also led her to teaching in Alaska – where she was born – from 1958–1959, and numerous trips back to France, including one in 1984 she recalls particularly fondly because it was the first time she visited the country with her husband. One wonders if it was her first big move – to Vancouver from Alaska via the Yukon – that set the pattern for many of her later travels.
In terms of her time at Crofton House, Marilyn remembers things fondly. “When I came here, my sister and I had spent the summer in a rooming house in the University area. I was used to asking questions and being quite free, so I was surprised when I asked the matron, Ms. Loosley, ‘why?’ to one of her instructions. Her reply was simply ‘Marilyn, we don’t ask why here, we do it!’”
While she notes that this new setting involved a lot of learning, she came to embrace the challenges and learn from them along the way. In truth, each turn in her story is exemplary in its boldness. From new cities to lifestyles at different ends of the spectrum, this cosmopolitan alumna’s story serves to inspire and challenge others in turn.
Tuesday June, 16, 2015
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