#21 Marcia A Grant (WGH 1963-67)

I am struck by what an extraordinary gift Willy G gave me of friendships with women of great intellect, culture and humanity who came together to study and to play – bringing their remarkable talents from all over the world.

Marcia Grant (née Montin) lived, on and off, at Willy G throughout the 1960s, using it as her home base during her studies. Memories of those years (August-October 1963; from April – August 1964; from August – December 1965; and from June through July 1967) and the friendships she made have stayed with her throughout her life and a varied and successful career that has taken her around the globe.

Back to the 60s

In the 1960s Willy G was my home base and provided me with a supportive community of remarkable women. Among them were Evelyn Born, an economist and dear Fulbright friend; May Oh, a solicitor from Singapore; Hilary Wood, a dentist from Scotland; Thalia Shuttleworth, an opthamologist from Australia; and Cynthia White, an English sociologist and one of the first researchers on women’s magazines. The two Canadian medievalists, Judy Plumtree Wedderspoon and Elizabeth Parker McLaughlan, enriched my life with discussions about their worlds and introduced me to collecting treasures in London markets and the silver vaults.

Writing my memoirs about starting Effat University for women in Jeddah, and developing liberal arts universities in Pakistan and Ghana, has led me to do some research on Willy G friends.  I’ve learned that  Rosemary Said Zahlan, became “one of the foremost academic historians of the Gulf states,” as well as working tirelessly for the Palestinian people; while our close friend, Peta Tancred-Sheriff, shifted her work on comparing French and British bureaucracies to feminist research, and became the director of McGill’s Center for Research and Teaching on Women. I am eager to read their books!

I met two of my life-long friends at Willy G. Alice Ilchman, the outstanding President of Sarah Lawrence College, was finishing her thesis on India’s five-year plans.  We discovered a mutual love of tennis and played every morning at 7am. In 1964 we were the lucky recipients of Wimbledon tickets from the Willy G desk. Afterwards, we were so inspired that we went to the sales at Selfridges and bought tennis dresses to help our game.

Later in life we spent delightful Christmases together with our families. Nebuwa (“Nebbie”) Nwozo was the first woman doctor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria and was studying for a certificate exam in London. We became friends over excellent coffee she made in her room. I visited her in Enugu before the Biafra War, when she ran a hospital and adopted several orphans. Later she visited me in Oberlin, Ohio, where I taught.

At Willy G I was a member of the Common Room committee and suggested that we needed to have a painting in the refectory to cheer up the room. This was accepted, and a marvelous painting of Windsor Castle and the Thames was commissioned. I was honoured to be asked to dedicate the picture with Dame Felicity Peake, the Chair of the Board and first director of the Women’s Air Force in the UK. Is it still there? *

Looking back, I am struck by what an extraordinary gift Willy G gave me of friendships with women of great intellect, culture and humanity who came together to study and to play – bringing their remarkable talents from all over the world.”

Life after Willy G

During my career I taught International Politics at Oberlin College in Ohio, USA and led the Edward S. Mason Program for Mid-Career officials at the Kennedy School of Harvard. I was in the US Foreign Service in Mexico City and Paris for eight years.

Marcia Grant and Princess Lolowah
Marcia with HRH Princess Lolowah al-Faisal

My most exciting career started at age 60 when I was asked to start a university for women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by HRH Princess Lolowah al-Faisal. From there I worked with the Aga Khan University in Karachi to design a Faculty of Arts and Sciences, followed by an assignment as Vice Rector for Academic Affairs at Forman Christian College in Lahore. I loved returning to Africa in 2013 to be Provost of Ashesi University, near Accra, Ghana, and finally was Provost at the American University of Paris before I recently retired.

*Registrar Caroline Persaud answers: The Thames at Windsor – A Regatta Scene by Charles Ernest Cundall (1890-1971) is hung in the London House Small Common Room. It was commissioned by former Chair of the Board of the Sister Trust (William Goodenough House) Dame Felicity Peake in 1966.

All the oil paintings from the College are listed on this website, including The Thames at Windsor.