2007 CHS Alumnae Achievement Awards Recipients: A Commitment to Enduring Service
By Anne Erickson
Alumnae president, Monique Badun ’84, believes this year’s Alumnae Achievement Award recipients exemplify the CHS maxim of courtesy, honour, and service. Josephine (Marler) Wright ’34 and Marian (Vance) Pocock ’35 are two women who made a difference during an era of limited choices. Both have led distinctive lives that demonstrate a commitment to service.
Josephine (Marler) Wright ’34
In 1922, at the age of six, Josephine (Marler) Wright began her education at Crofton House School. "It was a good education," is her flat declaration. She adds, "Miss Jessie Gordon was a wonderful person."
Now at ninety, Mrs. Wright recalls each teacher's name and remembers those who became friends after graduation. CHS teachers played a large part in her development and she was particularly influenced by Mrs. Halpin, who taught art. Mrs. Wright developed a love of the French language and "somewhere along the line was put on to long division and mathematics."
At the junior and senior schools, Mrs. Wright also learned things that were well outside the curriculum. She concedes, "I was quite a little monkey." She recounts the day she was asked to copy a note on the blackboard she had passed to another student. Another time, Miss Gordon herself told her to wash off the lipstick she had deigned to wear that day. It was a time when no students were allowed to wear any makeup.
This time of certain mischief made for many memories. On one occasion she "was put out of the room" for talking and was required to read extra pages of Western World Progress and passages from the Bible. Fortunately, this served to spark a lasting interest in history.
After graduation, Mrs. Wright's father passed away, so she spent several years helping at home. She was also involved with the Red Cross, until at age twenty-four she married her longtime sweetheart—a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force. On their wedding day she fondly remembers receiving a gift from Miss Gordon. She and her husband lived in different places across Canada before finally settling in Toronto. She cherishes the CHS friendships that endured a vast span of geography and time, maintained through "the lost art of letter writing" and phone calls.
The Alumnae Achievement Award was quite an honour and surprise for Mrs. Wright, who cajoles that her age alone may have exempted other alumnae. Her achievements prove otherwise. She is the only Canadian citizen to have received the Silver Acorn, the 75 year pin of service from the Boy Scouts of Canada. This lifelong passion also earned her a letter of recognition from the Governor General of Canada.
Her commitment to Scouts Canada was sparked at age fifteen, when, while wearing her Girl Guide uniform, the well-loved scoutmaster Edmund Hoyle Milnes ("Gramps") saw her and immediately recruited her to help with his rambunctious crew. After losing his only son in World War I, Gramps devoted his life to the Scouts. When he passed away on April 6, 1949, Mrs. Wright, inspired by his story, decided to carry on his work and began a legacy of her own. Mrs. Wright's three sons, grandsons, and now great-grandsons have all been Scouts. She is particularly grateful to her husband for returning home from work to care for their six children while she went to take care of forty-five others, saying, "If it hadn’t been for my husband, I couldn't have done it."
The Scouts' unwavering commitment to leadership, self-reliance, and self-respect, and their embrace of all walks of life, are the reasons she remains involved. She continues to volunteer and is now working her way through the entirely revised Scout manual. The Scouts movement inspires her constant learning and undaunted enjoyment of each day. She affectionately notes, "I just love the little fellas!"
Marian (Vance) Pocock ’35
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world
When asked what it was like to receive this year's Alumnae Achievement Award, Marian Pocock responded, "Seems like rather a big responsibility to be a good example." She also jested that receiving the award at her age first required her to actually remain living. But her story readily shows she has earned the award through how she has lived.
Marian, as she prefers to be addressed, was a voracious reader as a child. By the time she entered Crofton House School in Form B, now known as grade 7, she was on the cusp of becoming a young woman. Students were asked to give their time, skills, and personal earnings. Marian remembers paying five cents "cot money" each week to support a hospital in India in need of a bed. At the same time, boarders were constantly knitting squares for a quilt to send to the hospital. "School entailed a certain amount of fun and games," she says, "but it was also a time when students were to stand up when a teacher entered a room. Courtesy was always a must!"
The idea of service and community was iterated as the school's own future came into question. When founder and headmistress Jessie Gordon announced her intention to retire and close the school, it was very much the belief of students, parents, and Vancouver citizens that the school was too good to close. At Christ Church Cathedral, a meeting of many supporters was chaired by the dean, Dr. Ramsey Armitage, and resulted in a successful campaign to continue Crofton House School.
During the first year of the Second World War, Marian took first aid courses, belonged to an ambulance corps, made speeches to sell war savings bonds, and helped at home. Then the Canadian military and the Royal Canadian Air Force announced a selection process to enlist the first women recruits. With one brother already serving, Marian quickly applied, passed the medical, supplied all the necessary paperwork, passed the Selection Committee, and became one of the first 150 women to be chosen. "It meant I was no longer a free agent," she recalls.
Marian remembers officer training as a great learning experience that changed her very much. It was during this time that she met her future husband, Len Pocock, a young officer just returned from service in London during the Battle of the Blitz. They married within a few months. When the war ended, Len entered university to go into the ministry and eventually returned to the Air Force as a chaplain. Marian and Len raised four children, including one daughter, Janey (Pocock) Johnson, who also attended and graduated from CHS.
After eight interesting years on air force stations in Quebec, the Pocock family was finally transferred to the west coast and Marian came back to CHS as a member of the teaching staff. At this time Marian also became a member of the women's service club Soroptimist International, of which Jessie Gordon was a charter member and Ms. Bedford Jones was a former member. As the regional governor of Western Canada, Marian participated in many projects with the chief aim of helping women to re-enter the workforce through the support of scholarships and bursaries.
Marian's service is further marked with community involvement and recognition. She belonged to the Vancouver Volunteer Centre and was a member of its board. She was also the first woman to be elected senior society president for the Brock House Society. She was a recipient of the 1994 Frances E. Wagner Soroptomist Club Award and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. Despite her accomplishments, Marian maintains, "Family is always first, followed by work and then volunteer activities." She strongly believes "that we must use our time well." Her life to date is a worthy example of this belief.