I am a first-generation Irish-American who came from a working-class family. One Sunday in 1958, as my mother cooked—undoubtedly—our corn-beef-and-cabbage dinner, I read in Parade magazine about Alison Palmer, a U.S. Foreign Service officer working in U.S. embassies and representing our country abroad. I walked in the kitchen right then to tell my mother that I was going to be a Foreign Service officer. This was the time when young girls, if educated, typically became nurses or teachers. I don’t remember what she said, but she was undoubtedly supportive, since she—and my father—always encouraged my dream of a college education and career.
But there was just no money for college, and so I had to work very hard in high school. The guidance counselor called around to good colleges about me, and I was so fortunate that Marietta College expressed some interest. Though they offered me a nearly-full financial package, there was just one problem: Like many other colleges in the country at the time, there was no program in foreign affairs.
I told [my advisor] of my dream to join the Foreign Service, and
he empowered that dream by designing a custom-made foreign affairs
degree, combining economics, history, political science, foreign
language, and psychology.
My first good decision was to accept Marietta’s generosity, and I was delighted to find a beautiful New England-like campus in Ohio. The second good decision was to choose Dr. Bill Hartel as an academic advisor.
Dr. Hartel singled out students that he thought were intriguing, promising, or just intellectually stuck. By questioning them pointedly in class or hailing them on campus, he provoked them to examine who they were and where their lives were going. I told him of my dream to join the Foreign Service, and he empowered that dream by designing a custom-made foreign affairs degree, combining economics, history, political science, foreign language, and psychology. He told me never to give up on my dream to enter the Foreign Service, and I never did.
Dr. Hartel had a dual role on campus; he was also the student government advisor in the turbulent era of the Vietnam War, changing race relations, and the women’s movement. In this second role, Dr. Hartel also became my mentor when I was elected student-body vice president. He calmed the campus as unrest spread country-wide, pushed us all in student government to govern responsively, and encouraged us to rewrite the student body constitution to provide better government. For me, the experience was a lesson in how a democratic government should respond to dissent and how broadening participation in government lays the groundwork for better government. I called upon those principles when assigned to a U.S. embassy overseas, and I needed to engage my foreign counterparts on questions of democratic participation and responsive government.
I don’t think I would have come to know Dr. Hartel so well and learned so much from him and from so many other exceptional Marietta professors had I not lived on campus and had near-daily contact with them. Their personal attention educated me in the best possible way, increased my confidence, and empowered me to enter a very competitive and demanding career.