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 when she and her sorority sisters were in a homecoming parade for UNO on a float: “I never had so much fun— creating it and then getting to ride on the float” (Interview). Mary Alice also, like so many students today, worked numerous part-time jobs while going to school. “Between school, work, and the sorority, I was busy,” she recalls.
Mary Alice loved a lot about UNO, but like many students, she wasn’t happy with the parking situation. When Mary Alice asked how the parking situation is today, and I said, “Terrible,” we both couldn’t believe that the situation had never been fixed. Like many commuters today, Mary Alice also parked at Elmwood Park and walked to campus. “I used to hate walking to the university from Elmwood, but it was better than trying to fight for a parking spot!”
After Mary Alice finished her bachelor’s degree, she decided to immediately pursue her master’s degree through Omaha U. “I thought that if I were to go and get a job that paid well, I would never be able to make myself go back and earn my master’s.” In 1964, Mary Alice realized her goal and earned her master’s degree in elementary education.
After Mary Alice finished up with her master’s degree, she and a fellow sorority sister wanted to gain some real-world experience. They were offered the opportunity to help staff by piloting the new government-funded Head Start Program. While the program was already established in other states, it had not yet appeared in Omaha. Education experts thought the Head Start Program would be perfect to try out at a North Omaha school (one which no longer exists). Mary Alice and her friend wanted both the experience and knowledge associated with the program. “We didn’t get paid or anything, but we needed experience.”
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