Marjorie Bryan Buckley 62

(Editor’s Note: The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal citations, such as this one, are read to the audience at the Annual Alumni Luncheon and then presented as a keepsake to the recipients.)

Distinguished Service Medal Citation

Marjorie Bryan Buckley ’62

Love swept Marjorie Bryan Buckley away from her home state of North Carolina nearly three decades ago, when she married Walter W. Buckley Jr. They have made their home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania ever since.

Yet over the past decade, family ties and a strong calling to service have drawn Marjorie close to Carolina.

Marjorie grew up in Goldsboro, where her father was a successful entrepreneur. Many members of her family attended UNC. She received her Carolina bachelor’s degree in education in 1962 and returned for graduate studies a few years later.

But she wasn’t terribly involved with the University again until her daughter Alexandra enrolled in 1996. That led Marjorie to serve on the Board of Visitors, which led to her stalwart support of the Center for Public Service, dedicated in 1999.

The center is dear to Marjorie because it teaches Carolina students and faculty a truth that has been central to her own life: Each person has talents and resources they ought to offer their community in service.

Marjorie has felt this imperative strongly through her decades of involvement with Outward Bound. Outward Bound uses outdoor adventures as tools to show a disparate group of people that each has strengths that can help others—and that teams are stronger than loners.

If you talk to people who know Marjorie, many will tell you she is singly responsible for bringing Outward Bound to North Carolina.

In the late 1960s, Marjorie was assistant director of special projects for the North Carolina Fund anti-poverty program. While cleaning out a desk drawer, she came across a clipping from Princeton University’s alumni magazine about Outward Bound.

The article had been passed down through the ranks, and she’d tucked it away,  nearly forgetting about it. As she finally read it, she learned that the first Outward Bound program for women would begin three days later, a realization that hit her “in the solar plexus,” as she recalls. She bought a flashlight and boots, dropped her dog off at her parents’, and headed to Minnesota to participate.

It was a defining experience. She participated in a couple of other Outward Bound adventures soon afterward. Then she set about trying to persuade the North Carolina Fund to create the fourth U.S. Outward Bound school in North Carolina.

The board said no. But her friend Watts Hill Jr. ’47, then chair of the state board of higher education, made some introductions. With his support, she gathered a board of directors to raise the funding to establish the North Carolina Outward Bound School in 1967. The N.C. Fund agreed to pay her salary while she went to work for the school.

Now, the North Carolina Outward Bound School counts more than 50,000 alumni, and Marjorie still serves on its board. You should not be surprised to learn that the Carolina Center for Public Service is closely involved with the school as well, funding scholarships for Carolina students to attend its programs.

This, too, must be said of Marjorie: She is uncomfortable being praised for her service.

Yet it is important that we tell her story. Within other alumni across the country lie talents and resources that ought to benefit the University and the state of North Carolina. Nothing would please Marjorie more than to see more people realize that.

“If I lived in China,” she says, “I would still be a North Carolinian. Those ties just last and become a part of you. I feel the University is the best way I can connect with the people of North Carolina.”