Mary Jack Wald ’67 was one of the first women to attend Union College full-time. She enrolled in the fall of 1963.
“I arrived at Union that summer with my then-husband, an ROTC and history instructor, and our seven-year-old daughter, Danis,” Wald recalled. “I’d been pursuing a degree at every base in every country where my husband had been stationed. To have four years at Union was heaven for me.”
She studied English literature and earned her B.A. in June 1967. Wald, then Mary Jack Light Lloyd, was 33 years old.
“I don’t remember much of a female presence on campus at the time. There was a female librarian and, of course, female administrative assistants, but to my knowledge the only other female students were a few in the night school,” Wald said. “But it did not seem to be a big deal that I was a woman enrolled in day classes.”
“In my German class there was a young man named Robert Sussman. We were seated next to each other and I was then quite pregnant with my son, Lem,” she continued. “At one point, Robert whispered in my ear, ‘Don’t worry, my sister just had a baby, and I will be able to help you to the hospital.’ Union men were gentlemen.”
Indeed, the students often babysat for Wald’s children. She and her family lived in a home on campus, near the fieldhouse.
“The students were always up for adventure. They engaged our children with various activities, sledding, ice skating and bike riding were some favorites,” Wald said. “Often, the sitters asked me to chaperone their fraternity parties, too.”
Her time at Union left her well prepared for the next chapters of her life. The four years she spent studying German with Professor Frederick Klemm were especially useful.
“My husband’s next assignment was to Germany, where we lived off base in small town called Morbach,” Wald said. “Boy, did I put those four years of study into practice.”
“But the English Department is where I found myself. It offered me the opportunity to explore, formulate and express opinions,” she added. “I found my joy of reading at Union, which carried me through the rest of my life – personally and professionally.”
Her mentor, English Professor John Bradbury, was a wonderful teacher who offered excellent guidance. Wald wrote her senior thesis on “The Epic Qualities in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick,” for which she was awarded the William F. Allen Essay Prize.
Wald went on to a career in publishing, first with Random House and then with Ballantine Books and Western Publishing. As a woman in the industry, she rarely felt any hostility. But she does remember brushes with pioneering women.
“An exciting memory was the day Gloria Steinem marched past Random House campaigning for equal rights for women,” Wald said. “As the march wound its way down Madison Avenue, women could be seen leaving Random House and joining in solidarity.”
“Female solidarity could also be found inside the building – what would now be called networking,” she continued, adding that this is where she met a female editor who hired her to do freelance work for Ballantine Books.
Throughout her life and career, Wald was also fortunate to have great support at home. After her first marriage ended and she returned from Germany a single mother with two young children, her parents were always there for her. And her husband of many years, Al Wald, has been an instrumental source of encouragement.
It’s one reason she was able to start her own literary agency, Mary Jack Wald Associates.
“Being a literary agent, I helped enable authors to have their day – to have their work recognized,” Wald said. “Such work was sustenance for me and it brought me great joy and pride. Just as my time at Union does. I will never forget my years there, with many thanks for the happy memories.”