Editorial: Welcome benefactor for HCC

Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Elaine Marieb is a big believer in the benefits of community college education, and she has a particular affection for Holyoke Community College where she taught for 26 years. Thus, it was no surprise when her latest initiative as one of the college’s most loyal benefactors was announced late last month.

“Mission Marieb,” as the college calls the challenge, seeks 1,000 donors of any amount to the HCC Foundation’s Building Healthy Communities Campaign. If that goal is reached by Dec. 31, Marieb will donate $1 million to the campaign to finance two new state-of-the-art facilities at HCC. One is the Center for Health Education in a building on Jarvis Avenue. Renovations are expected to be complete by summer 2015 for HCC’s nursing and radiological technology programs, which will include sophisticated maternity, newborn, pediatric and geriatric patient simulators and a mock X-ray room with digital equipment. It will feature technology such as simulation mannequins used by instructors to exhibit symptoms of various ailments, which continues the kind of instruction done by Marieb when she taught anatomy and physiology at HCC from 1969 to 1995.

The campaign will also finance the renovation of laboratories and classrooms in creating the Center for Life Sciences on the first floor of the college’s main science facility, the Marieb Building, which is named for the woman who is now an emeritus professor.

The center will support programs in biology, chemistry, sustainability studies, veterinary technicians and foundations of health.

Marieb already has endowed the Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence which annually recognizes a faculty member for outstanding classroom teaching through professional development and dedication to student learning.

Marieb also funds five scholarships for women enrolled at HCC through its New Directions program for students age 24 or older “which recognizes that adults often are balancing college life with many career, family, personal or military responsibilities.”

Marieb, 78, who now lives in Sarasota, Fla., identifies in particular with the recipients of those scholarships.

After growing up on Bridge Street in Northampton and graduating from Northampton High School in 1953, Marieb married and had children before continuing her higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree at Westfield State University, a master’s degree at Mount Holyoke and a Five College doctorate in biology.

“I know how hard it is as a woman with children and not enough money,” she says. “I can appreciate the women who are single mothers ... trying to get into a situation to make a decent living.”

Marieb believes that community colleges play an important role because they provide a functional, affordable education taught by faculty dedicated to getting their students halfway toward a bachelor’s degree.

She has firsthand knowledge as an HCC student as well as a professor. When some of her students complained that her courses were too hard and included too much information, Marieb decided to find out if that was true and enrolled in the two-year nursing program at HCC, earning an associate degree as she continued teaching.

That practical experience then allowed her to adjust her instruction to better meet her students’ needs.

After she retired from teaching at HCC, Marieb continued her professional work writing more than a dozen anatomy and physiology textbooks which are used by some 1,000 colleges and universities and which have given her the means to be such a significant benefactor.

Marieb was moved to issue her latest challenge because the Healthy Communities Campaign supports programs that continue her work at HCC, and she wants to help the college wrap up its fundraising by the end of this year. HCC already has raised $4.1 million of its $5.3 million goal, and with “Mission Marieb” in place, the remaining $1.2 million now seems like a sure thing.

It continues Elaine Marieb’s remarkable dedication to ensuring that western Massachusetts students benefit from a high-quality education at Holyoke Community College.