Marjorie Gelus ’65 on Scripps’ “Faith in the Full Humanity of Women”

By Emily Glory Peters and Marjorie Gelus ’65

Marjorie Gelus '65 at her graduation from Scripps College in 1965
Gelus at Scripps College’s 1965 Commencement

Marjorie Gelus ’65, professor of German at California State University, Sacramento, never set out to enroll at a women’s college. But what she gained—an experience embedded in the liberal arts, discourse that centered women’s voices, and teaching that urged students to think for themselves—remains with her still.

“Scripps laid important groundwork for my career,” Gelus explains. “What I found at Scripps had no trouble taking deep root in me and shaping what I brought to my own students in teaching them how to think: to formulate questions and answers, to argue for and against ideas, to find persuasive evidence to support arguments, and to differentiate good from bad.”

Gelus says financial support from family and donors was essential in helping pave her lifelong journey through academia. Today, she’s chosen to do the same for future students by making a planned gift to Scripps.

“I have benefited greatly from others’ generosity—from the parents who paid for my undergraduate education, the largesse of the Fulbright Comission, the grants and teaching assistantships in graduate school, the grants for travel and summer seminars, the sabbaticals, the time that professors and mentors spent guiding me,” she says. “It’s always made me want to try to return the favor in as many ways as I can. Scripps has always been right at the top of the list of endeavors I want to support.”

Gelus’s inclusion of Scripps in her will is a simple and powerful way to cement her legacy and unlatch the door to a liberal arts education. Below, she shares reflections on her time at Scripps and why she’s paying it forward for others.

And finally, the care given to women. The transformative faith in the full humanity of women that helped us transcend barriers. Thank you, Scripps College.

Scripps has been in my will for so long that I have lost track of what moved me to put it there. Some beneficiaries have been added, some have been deleted, but Scripps’ place as the highest ranking has never wavered. Why might that be? It’s not as if my time there was pure sunshine. I had some impressive angst and turmoil there. But it was rich and intense in so many ways that really shaped me.

My education was pure gold. It was crowned by the required, three-year, double-humanities course unique to Scripps, taught by teams of professors in different specialties: art, history, music, philosophy, religion, and literature. Such immersion, in such wealth! But I also packed in courses in German, French, art, dance, and choir, and worlds opened up to me. I am not a singer but I love singing, and Scripps gave me the great gift of not requiring an audition to join the choir. I still sing things today I sang back then (like Schubert’s Mass in G). I danced my heart out in Miss Rich’s (Beatrice Richardson) modern dance program, and my posture is still superb. And it was Professor of Philosophy Philip Merlan and his dear wife and Professor of German Franciszka Merlan who pointed me toward my own life as a German professor. I treasure the copy of Martin Luther’s Bible translation that she signed for me.

Then there was the ideal balance of shelter and freedom. Scripps shepherded and cocooned me as much as was necessary to keep me from going totally off the rails in my first venture away from home, which let me feel safe enough to explore my new world.

And the campus. So beautiful. The Spanish tile-roofed residence halls, the treasures of Denison Library, Seal Court, the olive grove and its murals, the citrus blossoms.

And finally, the care given to women. The transformative faith in the full humanity of women that helped us transcend barriers.

Thank you, Scripps College.

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