Mary Alice Hurlbert

Profile By: Alyssa Cunningham

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A Traveling Teacher

Graduating in the 1960s with a master’s degree in Education, Mary Alice Hurlbert embarked on teaching children throughout the world. She also participated in the first Head Start Program in Omaha. After teaching for several years in Omaha, she taught overseas for the Department of Defense School Systems for the next 39 years of her career. While overseas, Mary Alice traveled all over Europe, the Middle East, and Africa where she taught at a variety of schools, including in Turkey, Ethiopia, Scotland, and Germany. Mary Alice now lives in a quiet neighborhood in Omaha where she enjoys her retirement by keeping busy with community activities.

While Mary Alice never had any children of her own, she devoted her life to all of the children she met, taught, and nurtured over the years.

Part One Learning to Teach

In the twenty-first century, it’s easy to say that you go to the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and not really think too much about it. However, it wasn’t always so easy to say that you had graduated from UNO, especially for a woman in the 1960s. One of the two biggest stereotypes back in the 1960s was that women should finish high school, get married, have children, and run a household. The other one was that if a woman went to college, she should study to be a teacher or nurse, aspiring ultimately to earn her MRS degree.

Mary Alice Hurlbert didn’t buy into either of those gendered stereotypes. When she enrolled in UNO (formerly Omaha U) in fall of 1960, Mary Alice decided to pursue a Biology major: “It was always something that was interesting to me” (Interview). When she didn’t

Part Two Life at UNO

Mary Alice was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and came from an educated family. Her father was a civil engineer and her mother was a nurse. She was the younger of two girls. When Mary Alice graduated from high school, she initially wanted to go away to school in Missouri. After thinking about it for a while, she chose to stay in Nebraska and attend UNO, a commuter non-traditional school. “I went mostly for my parents to UNO; they wanted me to stay in town” (Interview).

Mary Alice lived with her parents while she went to UNO, but that didn’t mean she didn’t participate in other activities outside of classes. She was an active member of Sigma Kappa. “I loved doing everything that had to do with the sorority” (Interview). One of Mary Alice’s best memories of being in the sorority was

Part Three Traveling and Teaching Abroad

Mary Alice said the Head Start experience was so rewarding that she wanted to apply what she had learned in her own classroom. In other words, she was ready to teach. Still living in Omaha, she started teaching different grades, varying from kindergarten through the 6th grade. Mary Alice taught five years in Omaha and then went on to teach overseas for the Department of Defense School Systems (DoDDS) for the next 39 years of her career. While overseas Mary Alice traveled continuously all over Europe, the Middle East, and Africa where she taught at a variety of schools. During her first three years, she started in Turkey and then taught a year in Ethiopia. Next, she landed in Scotland. However, she didn’t stay in one place for long. Mary Alice followed a boyfriend back to Turkey. When things

Part Four Returning Home

During Mary Alice’s career overseas, she missed her family a great deal, especially her mom. She came back to the States for special occasions and events. “I didn’t really have a family of my own overseas, but I had a great network of friends and people I could call family.” Mary Alice never married, but that didn’t mean she was never close to a happily-ever-after. She had two serious love interests, and one man that she really thought she was going to marry. However, when she took a job in a different town thinking that he would be there when she returned, he didn’t wait as she had hoped. Instead, he fell in love and married someone else who was more eager to settle down and start a traditional life. Mary Alice said it was a difficult break up, like