Profile By: Benjamin Divis

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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 29th, 1965, the group took a field trip to Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s concoctions 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 around. On June 29th, 1966, exactly ten months later, the young couple was married and Sheila McCrae became Sheila Runyon. “We went to Scotland to be married in my home church, so my parents met [Bob] ten days before the wedding” (Interview).

A year later, Sheila and Bob moved to Baltimore, where Bob worked as a librarian at Johns Hopkins University. Sheila volunteered at a nursing home before working as a computer programmer at Maryland Casualty Insurance Company. It was May of 1968 and programming a computer was very different back then than it is now. “We wrote all our code out by hand and then they were punched by the key-punch department and you fed them into the computer” (Interview). Of course, prior to this job she had had no experience with what was at the time highly sophisticated technology. After being hired, and what she describes as “a whole battery of tests” (Interview), Sheila took classes at IBM. She absolutely adored her new occupation and stayed at Maryland Casualty for the next year.

Ever since their marriage, Bob and Sheila had wanted to start a family of their own but unfortunately were unable to have any children. Thus they turned to adoption through the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. The process was long and onerous but in December 1969, just after Thanksgiving, the agency finally entrusted them with the care of a three-month-old boy. The overjoyed new parents named him Neil. Sheila, who had quit working that summer to take a lengthy trip to Scotland, became a full-time stay-at-home mother. She stayed active in her church groups, the faculty women’s club at Johns Hopkins, and eventually her son’s schools. Four years after adopting Neil, the Runyons moved again, this time to Salt Lake City, where Bob worked at the University of Utah. Five years later, in 1978, they moved one last time to Omaha, where Bob and Sheila have resided ever since.

 

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Part Seven Back to School

Neil was a bright kid and his parents knew he was bound for college. Unfortunately, as they were living off only one salary, they lacked the money necessary to send him there. Sheila, who had recently joined Mensa, decided it was high time to return to the workforce, preferably as a programmer, so they could ensure a bright future for Neil. However, it had been ten years since she had worked in the field. Computer technology had evolved and she would have to be trained all over again. The answer lay at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. UNO, it should be noted, “was the first Nebraska university to receive computer science accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET” (Dept. of Computer Science). That autumn, Sheila was back in school and she was not leaving without a degree.