Memories of Marilyn – September 3, 2014

The 2014-2015 school year is off to a joyous start. As we welcomed back staff, parents and students last week, a positive buzz was in the air. We are loving our new classrooms, as well as our gorgeous Social Center and spacious outdoor areas. We have so much to celebrate and yet, as we start Beechwood’s 30th year, there is a touch of sadness in the air as well. Marilyn Anderson, Executive Director of the California Family Foundation, who has ably guided Beechwood since it’s inception, has retired.

I have been fortunate enough to work alongside this great woman for 20 years. When I first came to Beechwood in the summer of 1993, as a young teacher with very little experience, Marilyn was there to interview me. I will be forever grateful to her for seeing the potential in me and for being patient with me as I grew professionally.

There are too many memories to share in this short piece, so I will relate a few that I believe capture the essence of Mrs. Marilyn Anderson.

Cake decorating. Each year, Mrs. Anderson’s cake decorating club is far and away the most popular choice for our middle school students. It is mind-boggling to consider the amount of time and effort that Marilyn put into her cake club. There were usually 15 kids in the club each year. Each student gets their own cake to decorate each week. Clubs lasts four weeks. So each year, she bakes 60 cakes. Clubs has been at Beechwood for at least 15 years. 15 times 60 is 900. She baked 900 cakes! Don’t get me started on the amount of frosting (usually at least five different colors and always made from scratch). Talk about dedication.

Going to her home for dinners and parties. Mrs. Anderson’s house is most definitely a home. It is neat and clean, as well as, warm and comfortable. There are gardens with colorful flowers and mouth-watering aromas emanating from her kitchen. And there are always great people to visit with: Her daughters, her husband, her grandchildren, all of them a pleasure to be around. At one time or another she has hosted parents, students and teachers at her home and I am sure that all will agree that it is always a special occasion.

Grace under pressure. What an education it has been to watch her remain calm and make good decisions during times of crisis at Beechwood. Marilyn was never afraid to do the right thing, even if it meant that a difficult conversation would need to take place. More than once, as I have faced difficult situations as principal I have thought, “What would Marilyn do?”.

Service and Humility. Her record of service to others is extraordinary but she does not serve so that she can receive recognition or praise. The spotlight is not a place where she is comfortable. Very few people are aware of all that she has done, the way she has become personally involved with families in need. Now, when Beechwood staff reach out, going above and beyond for our families, they are following the standard that she has set for us to follow.

Work Ethic. Whether it was managing 15 houses in the foundation’s housing program, balancing a 2 million dollar budget, finding donors to keep Beechwood financially stable, putting together a parent education program or providing health benefits for the Beechwood staff, Marilyn Anderson put in the hours needed to make sure that things were done correctly. That too was a lesson for all of us. If the goal is excellence, there are no shortcuts.

My respect for Marilyn Anderson is beyond what I can describe here. To have partnered with her in providing an outstanding education for the students and families of Beechwood is one of the great blessings of my life. We know that she will stay close, even in her retirement. Rumor has it that cake decorating club will continue and we will see her often. Congratulations, Marilyn, on an amazing career and for all of your considerable accomplishments. We couldn’t have done it without you.

-Mr. Laurance