By: Anastasia Dula, Class of '58 researcher and UM-Flint student
Marie Hanley saw college education as the chance for a better life than she would have by simply working in a shop or store. She had worked for Buick for a couple of years after graduating from high school, then tried a nursing school in Chicago, but had decided that neither was for her. Therefore, she decided to enroll at Flint Junior College, a school with reasonable tuition, in pursuit of an education degree. Her Italian immigrant parents did not consider college a priority; rather, they simply wanted her to work. However, they made no attempt to prevent her from going, and allowed her to live at their home in Flint while she did so. There were rumors of a senior college to be established in Flint some years in the future, but when it was instead founded the very year that she finished junior college, she decided to continue her education there.
Initially, Hanley was a little nervous about enrolling at the Flint College, not because the school was new but because the University of Michigan had a reputation for being more difficult than the Junior College. However, there were some instances when the newness of the campus was quite apparent, as she remembers hearing, “We don’t know yet” as answer to questions about the school’s future. She was, however, certain that the school would grow.
Hanley would always try to sign up for early morning classes so that she would be able to work in the afternoon. She worked her way through school on the time-payment plan, through jobs at a drugstore and an abstract company. There was little extra money to be had—a photo of her was not included in the yearbook because she did not have the one dollar fee to have it taken, and she was not permitted to take part in the graduation ceremony in Ann Arbor because she had not yet been able to pay the full balance of her tuition. This did not delay the acquisition of her first teaching position, however, and she was soon able to pay the balance. Unfortunately, this first job was a very difficult one for a new teacher—she was given a self-contained classroom of 33 eighth graders, 11 of whom had failed eighth grade the year before, four of whom were seventeen years old, and one of whom was going to school under court order. While she felt that her Flint College classes were well-taught, she also felt that experiences like this one were what truly helped to prepare young teachers for their future careers, experiences for which no classroom education could prepare them.
Although both spare time and money were in short supply while Hanley was in college, she is nevertheless grateful that she had the opportunity to pursue her higher education. She is particularly grateful to Charles Stuart Mott for his philanthropic contributions that helped to make the Flint Junior and Senior Colleges possible. In fact, one of her greatest regrets is that she never wrote him a thank you note for all he had done for her and others like her.
In fact, one of my regrets is that, when I got through with school, I didn’t write a letter to C.S. Mott thanking him for giving the land and money for the Senior College. Without that, I would never have gone to school. I think it’s remarkable that he was so generous.