Near the end of World War II, Marti Rosen-Atherton was born in Los Angeles, California while her father was serving in the Pacific. Growing-up in a Jewish home of three generations and having lived with her maternal grandmother, her mother, and her two younger siblings, Marti “feel[s] blessed … to come from a line of wonderfully strong women” (Rosen-Atherton 2012). To learn more about Marti’s Jewish heritage, visit: Tale of Bashert. Marti’s father passed away when she was only fourteen, although she can still remember one of his strongest legacies to her: “Marti—you are what you are because of your attitude,” a philosophy that has gotten her through some difficult life challenges, and one that she passes on to her students today (Interview 2012). She says she is incredibly thankful for growing up in a close family that has been a strong support system throughout her life.
Marti eventually attended both UCLA and Berkeley in the 1960s, and, like many college students, she explored several majors, starting with psychology and switching to sociology before ultimately settling on English. At this time in her life, she had no solid plans for the future, was certain that she would never become a teacher (“Never say never,” she says now), and had no intention of attending graduate school: “I certainly didn’t have the passion for learning … that I do now,” she admits. “I have often wished I could go back and do it all over again” (Interview 2011).
The 1960s were a time of tumultuous change. Marti vividly remembers hearing about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the way to Music Appreciation, singing “We Shall Overcome” with her UCLA roommates as they watched President Johnson sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on their TV, and America’s controversial involvement in the Vietnam War. College students of the 1960s were actively involved with politics, and Marti was no exception. She took part in the pre-anti-war movement during her time at Berkeley: “I have a vivid memory of being part of this huge mass of peaceful demonstrators that packed Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of something that would become so devastatingly out of control and leave such a dark, divisive, and painful mark on U.S. history” (Interview 2012). Marti recalls her time at UCLA and Berkeley as one of “personal liberation, along with hope and idealism and a sense of possibility that we could make a difference even in the face of growing world crises” (Interview 2012).
Shortly after graduating from UCLA with a BA in English in 1965, Marti married an Omaha man whom she had met through her Omaha cousins when he was a Seabee stationed in Oxnard, California, near Los Angeles. Following her husband to the Midwest, her expectation was to have a family and be a stay-at-home mother. Instead, she became a part-time working mother, joining her husband in running their newly purchased business, Omaha Mirror & Art Glass. After several years, although she loved being a mother (and still does, she asserts with a smile), she felt restless and unfulfilled. Working with her husband in their family business, she felt she had nothing of her own: “I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I just knew that I didn’t have enough intellectual stimulation or anything that I felt was really mine” (Interview 2011). On a trip to her home state of California, she drew inspiration from old high school and college friends whose lives seemed so much more fulfilling and stimulating than her own. On this trip, Marti discovered that what she was seeking was a similar type of fulfillment in life.
Returning to Omaha newly motivated to find intellectual stimulation and fulfillment, Marti attended a Values Clarification discussion being offered through the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) that could make her more aware of her values and help her understand her restlessness and thirst for intellectual stimulation. Her experience at the NCJW was such a positive one, she afterwards inquired about assertiveness training, something she had heard about from her friends in California. Although the woman who had led the NCJW didn’t know of any such classes, the timing must have been right. The following week, Marti saw that a non-credit assertiveness training course was being offered through UNO’s College of Continuing Studies. She signed up and attended the six-week course with a friend from NCJW. Serendipitously, two graduate students from UNO’s Counselor Education Department were facilitating the class, and they introduced Marti to Dr. Robert Butler, Department Chair of Counselor Education. Feeling the workings of fate, or what Marti calls bashert in Yiddish, she made the decision to pursue a graduate degree in counseling at UNO thirteen years after graduating from UCLA—a goal that took five years to achieve as she balanced her education, her work in the family business, raising her two children, and running the bookkeeping service for a local accounting office.
Despite the excessive stress, Marti loved graduate school, especially because she had long felt like “an appendage to [her] husband’s world” (Interview 2011). Continuing her education gave her more than an opportunity to learn; it provided her an opportunity to learn about herself: “Starting graduate school was something that was totally mine and that felt very important to me” (Interview 2011). In 1983, she graduated from UNO with a Master’s degree in Counseling.
Marti’s first job out of graduate school was as a therapist at Jennie Edmundson Hospital and at a psychiatric office in Council Bluffs. What followed was a trying year—she underwent a divorce, lost her beloved grandmother, turned 40 years old, and lost her job, all within a four-month period. Fortunately, Marti again had “an incredible support system” to help her through this difficult time (Interview 2011). Part of that incredible support system was her graduate school mentor, Bob Butler, who directed her to a grant-funded position at Iowa Western Community College (IWCC). Along with all the other things she had learned from Bob, his support at that critical time taught her “the importance of networking and what it means to have somebody believe in you” (Interview 2012). While working at IWCC, she saw an advertisement for a position with the