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Breaking tradition leads to a full life

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2008 12:22 a.m. MST

Marilyn Mansfield raised six Eagle Scouts. Shown in the 1980s, from left, her sons Mark, Paul, Steve, John, Scott and Michael.

OREM — Marilyn Mansfield has seen a career that not only set a new pace for Utah women but broke with family tradition.

"My father didn't believe women needed to go to college," she said. But Mansfield wanted an education, so she took a job at Utah Valley State College as secretary for the dean of trades.

The job offered an important benefit: free tuition.

Along with her classes, Mansfield had many assignments. She recruited high school students; she and Ida McKinley were the first women in Utah to work in that field.

"For women that was unheard of," she said. "It was always men who did that."

Mansfield was recently honored with the UVSC Wilson W. Sorensen Lifetime Achievement Award.

A former student, Jeff McLellen, nominated her for the award. As an adviser, she assisted many students and after she retired in 1999, she continued to help them.

In 1986, she graduated in the social sciences from Westminster College in Salt Lake City while continuing to work for UVSC.

Her growing experience spun into her becoming the first director of advisement for the college, developing what career and academic counseling should look like.

Then she wrote a grant to get $60,000 for a software program to assist students through their degree requirements.

"We designed it, built it and used it," she said.

It included such details as academic standards, transfer of credits and other key issues.

One of the most challenging and intriguing assignments loomed just around the corner. In 1989, then-college President Kerry Romesberg said that UVSC was to lead the state colleges in changing from a quarter to a semester system. Mansfield spearheaded a three-person team assigned to do that.

"There was no model on how to do this," she said.

By then Mansfield was working on her master's degree in educational psychology. Her master's thesis centered on how to make the switch.

"The administration wanted a complete housecleaning," she said.

That included new course numbers and descriptions and rewrites of faculty courses.

As she progressed on the year-long project, she met with the UVSC curriculum committee. She also consulted with other state colleges.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but the most fulfilling," she said.

Her last assignment was to create an electronic, degree-offering college for the state. The college has since moved to Salt Lake City under the moniker Utah Electronic College. Students can now get a college degree — www.uec.com — without ever stepping onto a college campus for coursework.

While UVSC became her career, Mansfield had another love. For three decades, she was the pianist for for a trio, "Just Friends," with Thelma Richins, Ilamae Barker and Marilyn Christensen. They sang at business events, churches and funerals from 1966-1996, when Christensen died.

She and her husband live in Lindon. They have six sons, all of whom achieved Eagle rank with the Boy Scouts of America. One of them, Col. John Mansfield, is a surgeon in Iraq.

"It's been a wonderful joyride," Mansfield said.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com