Marion Patricia Delaney '73 studied drama (interdisciplinary major) at Union College before graduating a year early. She went on to a career that included stints at major advertising agencies in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Later, Marnie became senior vice president of Advertising & Marketing Communications at Bank of America (at the time headquartered in San Francisco). After a merger with NationsBank, she decided to change things up and founded an art studio and store. It focused on developing children’s confidence in their creativity and the strength of their imaginations. In between all this, she took one little “side trip” in her career to work on various political and entertainment projects. This included a year on the road with the president of NOW and others, working on the campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment – which is again teetering on the edge of passage, 40 years later. Marnie has always been involved with a variety of political and arts activities and organizations, especially those involving women and children. She retired and moved to France in 2018.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
My biggest challenges have varied over time. I didn’t start my career with an abundance of confidence or direction but this grew with time. I also found myself in many situations as the “first” woman. That was certainly one of the reasons I wish I had possessed far more confidence. I was very lucky to stumble my way into a successful career and I happily found good mentors to help me navigate through some of the tougher challenges. All of the pressures and penalties addressed by the “Me, too” movement certainly were factors in my career, as well as those of many of my friends and peers. It is very sad that we still need to have such basic conversations about these issues. My biggest frustration in life is how fragile our individual rights are, how often battles for justice have to be re-won and how quickly we seem to forget the lessons of history. This time in our country’s history is not my favorite but there isn’t any virtue in abstaining from our responsibilities as citizens. Even out of the country, I’ve tried to find ways to contribute.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
I am inspired by all sorts of people who have found a way to make a difference in the world or in the lives of someone(s) who needed to be lifted up. I am inspired by children who often state the truth in shockingly eloquent ways and who often have unbounded generosity in their hearts. I am inspired by my dogs and by nature and by the realization (late, but not too late in life) that fretting about things won’t change them, but doing something can.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Advice, oy. Have some goals but don’t let them impede your happiness or the chance for a spectacular adventure. Do things that will help you feel confident and help you accomplish your goals and also do things that make you happy and make life better for someone. Embrace and enrich the world, not just your neighborhood. Always remember to be a good neighbor and a good friend. My grandmother always said, “Take care of your feet and your teeth.” This seems like excellent advice in retrospect. Be an informed and committed voter. Stop and admire the shades of green in an evergreen tree. Remember how important it is to earn respect, and once you’ve done that, demand it. Remember laughter is precious so make it happen and enjoy it when it does. Listen to even the longest stories told by a child and ask follow up questions. Try doing the same with adults.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
The most formative event during my days at Union was not a good one, I’m afraid. During the winter of my final year I was the victim of a somewhat violent sexual assault. I was pulled off the sidewalk at night while walking home after a party and was beaten and raped. It was a stranger, not a student, which really doesn’t matter, I suppose. It was a painful (in many ways) and very frightening experience. At the time, rape was virtually impossible for a woman to prove. Completely impossible without an eye witness (this was part of the legal code). The assumption was “women lie.” My experience demonstrated that the campus security, the local police and the men in the emergency room were in no way equipped to deal with the situation. I didn’t experience any compassion or support and, in fact, was left feeling l shared blame by putting myself in a vulnerable position. Subsequently, my housemates and others were very kind but, again, there weren’t any support groups or counseling as there is today (though it is still true that a very large percentage of rapes go unreported and thus support is too often still absent). I think it is so important for people to understand how absurdly unjust so many laws were in our lifetimes and how difficult the path to change was for people to whom we owe so much. I hope that going forward the women of Union continue, as so many have before, to make positive changes and to protect the hard-fought results from which we all benefit. I feel pretty good about seeing the future in their hands.