Profile By: Benjamin Divis


Part Five Coming to America

Sheila’s nomadic nature was shared by her older sister Jean, who by this time had made multiple trips to Africa as a teacher, first to North Rhodesia (now Zambia) and then with the Royal Air Force to Nairobi. There, Jean had met a Canadian man on a research mission who would one day become her husband and with whom she would set up permanent residence in Saskatchewan. Not to be outdone, Sheila decided she was going to travel to the United States. She had family in Detroit: her mother’s brother, a certain Uncle Sam, and yes, this coincidence came with its fair share of humorous interactions. “People would ask where I was going and I’d say, ‘I’m going to live with Uncle Sam,’ and they’d say, ‘I know, but where?’”

After a tedious immigration process, Sheila landed in New York City on March 29, 1963. There she met for the first time her cousin June, Uncle Sam’s daughter, who worked as a journalist for the global travel magazine Where. She saw to it that Sheila’s three weeks in the Big Apple were a tourist’s dream come true. They visited the Statue of Liberty and attended two concerts free of charge thanks to June’s press pass: Eartha Kitt at the Plaza Hotel and the Rockettes’ Easter show at Radio City Music Hall. They then traveled to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms before Sheila departed for Detroit.

While living with her Uncle Sam and Aunt Martha in the suburbs, Sheila worked in a private medical lab downtown. Detroit was not nearly as thrilling as New York, however, and within a year, Sheila was itching to relocate. Fortunately, she had other contacts across the country–friends she had made during her time at Edinburgh. One of these friends, Nancy, originally from upstate New York, invited Sheila to come live with her and her husband in Pittsburgh. Sheila gratefully accepted and soon got a job as a lab assistant in biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “It’s interesting. As a college dropout, I never had any trouble finding work” (Interview). One of her new occupations’ many perks was free tuition, of which Sheila took full advantage. She majored in English and took night classes focused on writing and literature. She did not graduate from Pitt, but the forty-five credits she accumulated there would come in very handy in about twenty years.


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Part Six Marriage, Motherhood, and Magna Cum Laude

Pittsburgh had more in store for Sheila than she could have imagined. As the spring semester came to a close, a new friend from class invited her to the 20-30 Club, a Unitarian singles’ group in downtown Pittsburgh. Sheila, a lifelong Presbyterian, was initially skeptical but ultimately decided to join. Bob Runyon, a librarian for the American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences, was also a member and this is where they met. That summer, on August 29, 1965, the group took a field trip to Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs on Route 381 between Mill Run and Ohiopyle. Sheila and Bob had their first date here and by the end of it, Sheila knew “This is the one I’m going to marry” (Interview). It took Bob a little longer have the same epiphany but he came