Her name is Marla (Jackson) Williams, a 1972 graduate of Leavenworth High who recently had the pleasure of going back in time at her 40th High School Class Reunion and reconnecting with the classmates she hadn't seen since graduation. She states that "Mr. Mathis did a wonderful job with the tour of the school which looks fantastic."
Since leaving Leavenworth High, her educational and professional accomplishments have been impressive:
BS Business Administration – University of Kansas, 1976; MBA - Finance – University of Rochester, 1978.
Recipient of Fellowship – Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.
Pfizer ( formerly The Upjohn Company ) Kalamazoo, Mich. 1978-2011 (retired); International Division – Financial Analysis and
Twenty years working in the International Division which provided me the opportunity to travel to and work with colleagues in subsidiaries covering five continents and 30 plus countries.
Key Highlights: 1) Selected to a team which travelled to the Soviet Union (Moscow) and developed a business plan during a time period in which the Communist Party ruled.
(2)Business trips to South Africa when the country was still under the throes of Apartheid .
Pharmaceutical Manufacturing – Finance. Ten years providing financial support to various plant responsibilities.
Bible Baptist Church
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. – Life Member
Community Involvement: Currently volunteer at a food pantry
Marla's reflections on the past and the present include these thoughts:
"What I feel probably helps define me best is the fact that I was the first in my family to attend and graduate from college (first generation). I grew up with the belief that education was the key to success/obtaining a better life. As a result I was very focused and driven in school to do my best and placed tremendous pressure on myself (self imposed) to excel academically. I wanted to "beat the odds."
"As someone told me early on in life, you are going to face many challenges along your life journey but one thing for sure, no one can take away the knowledge you gain.
"While my "village" contained many, two individuals who had a significant impact on my life during high school come to mind: 1) Mr. Robert Engle – high school counselor; and 2) Mrs. Sylvia Young.
"Mr. Engle was instrumental in me attending the University of Kansas. I can still remember the day I was sitting in his office and he asked me where I had decided to go to college and I told him in my heart I really wanted to go to KU but wasn't sure I could make it there. Mr. Engle encouraged me to follow my heart and told me that I would be successful wherever I went.
Page 2 of 2 - "Mrs. Young was such a source of positive encouragement throughout my high school years. It was an honor receiving the Les Novelettes scholarship which served as additional encouragement and validation that I was equipped to tackle the academic rigor of the University of Kansas.
"Prior to graduation from Leavenworth High, being in the marching band and participating in the 1971 Rose Bowl Parade was definitely a major highlight of high school for me!
"Upon graduating from KU I was the recipient of a fellowship through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management to attend the University of Rochester and obtain my MBA with a finance concentration. Upon graduating from Rochester I went to work for what was then The Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Mich.
"I was very blessed to have a professional career that provided me the opportunity to see and work with people from around the world. My travels took me to many countries throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Australia/Pacific and Africa. Life is about respecting self and having respect for others and their cultures.
"I was able to experience first-hand the fact that the world is truly global and people are people wherever you go, we are all members of the human race. I treasure the many friendships that developed as a result of my job."
Marla, like many of the Les Novelettes scholarship recipients, past and present, embraces the concept of paying it forward through her extra-curricular activities which have included membership on local community boards: e.g. Girl Scouts, Housing Resource, Inc (housing for the homeless), Gryphon Place (assisting individuals in resolving crises and meeting life challenges). Through her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, she was able to participate in mentoring programs for young girls. She has a passion for helping those who want to help themselves.
Marla goes on to say:
"While I'm very proud of my academic and professional achievements, I'm reminded of words expressed by our class president (Joe Beavers) during the evening reception of our reunion:
"'At this stage in our lives how much does having/collecting 'stuff' really matter?' I would venture to say relationships (family and friends), having one's health and lending a helping hand to others are more important than material things/status."
Marla's dedication in helping others is in keeping with the proverb: "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."
Cathy Lang has been a member of Les Novelettes since 1994. She is the non-profit manager for the club.