It's a kind of history repeating that Marion Paden's term as president of Oklahoma City's 102-year-old downtown Rotary club — and only its second woman president — is making headlines. About 40 years ago, when Paden was in high school, her affiliation with Norman's Rotary club landed her in the papers, prompting a local bank to send her a laminated “YOU Made the News” card, bearing the clipping and a congratulatory note.
Paden — who was active in Student Council, National Honor Society, the Spanish-French and Modern History clubs, and more — was named student of the month and driven to weekly Rotary meetings by none other than governing OU President George Lynn Cross.
Today, Paden, who serves as vice president of enrollment and student services at Oklahoma City Community College, muses about the parallels and whether conversations with Cross helped inspire her own career in higher education. Just weeks into her one-year term as Club 29 president, she recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her personal and professional life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Can you tell us about your roots?
A: My paternal grandparents died before I was born. But I knew my maternal grandparents well and am named for both my grandfather, Marion Rushton of Montgomery, Ala., and grandmother, Marian Hedin, originally of Boston, Mass., who met while he was at Harvard Law School and she, Radcliffe College. She began spelling her name like his, after they married and moved to Montgomery, where we often visited. I was born in Midwest City, but my family — including two brothers 16 months older and seven years younger — moved when I was in the second grade to Norman, where I attended the now-obsolete University High School, a small private school that was affiliated with OU. My father had a long career in the Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel, and later working as a civil servant/electrical engineer. A homemaker, my mother contracted polio six months after I was born. The disease affected her arms, so she needed physical therapy to build up her strength. I had the opportunity to honor her and represent Club 29 in Rotary's humanitarian effort “End Polio Now” just this past spring during the National Immunization Days in Gujarat, India.
Q: And college?
A: I went my first year to Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., but the following summer, told my parents — who'd relocated outside Sacramento — that I didn't want to go back. I didn't feel like they were educating women for the modern world. Our student I.D.s doubled as credit cards for the downtown department store, library fines were sent home to our parents and many students were more focused on getting husbands than educations. I convinced OSU to accept me as an in-state student because my parents eventually planned to move back. I'd never been to Stillwater and in my initial drive there, on a then two-lane road over Cow Creek and past Swine Hall, I thought I'd done myself in. But I loved it. I wanted a room to myself, so I became a resident assistant — first at Bennett Hall and then assistant head resident at Cordell Hall. The experiences served as the foundation for my career in college student services. After graduating with a broken heart, I spent a summer with a girlfriend's family pumping gas and selling worms to fishermen at the Callville Bay Marina on Lake Mead outside Las Vegas and then returned to Stillwater to complete a master's in student personnel and guidance.