Her Story: death and rebirth

Joel Campbell

Of all the human traditions, oral history has always been significant. Whether it is used to encourage one and other, or simply to teach, it remains valuable even in this technological age.

“Her Story” began in 2003 as a means for women to share their life stories with students. Since then the program has featured 35 presentations, including Thursday’s address by Maureen Wolverton.

“It’s an incredible program that really highlights a variety of women at Grand Valley,” said Susan Mandoza, the director of undergraduate research and scholarship. “You just don’t see them [female role models].”

Wolverton, an affiliate faculty member from the liberal studies department, finally completed the assignment she gives to her students: telling her story in front of an audience.

“I ask my students in the life journey class to complete this assignment every single semester,” Wolverton said. “I’ve never done the assignment myself.”

Although she asks her students to do it in five minutes, Wolverton had half an hour.

“Everybody has something significant to share,” she said.

Beginning with her childhood and ending with the present, Wolverton explained how there is a pattern to her life. To her, it can be summed up as death and rebirth. Her life may have been going smoothly and then she hit a moment, some part of her broke down and had to be rediscovered.

One of the most profound moments in her life came after she graduated from college and was working for Starbucks Coffee Company.

She opened the first Starbucks shops in Michigan and Ohio and was called in to fix failing shops.

“…and then I burned out and quit,” Wolverton said. “I realized that this is not really what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life.”

She gave up her fast-paced life and went out to California to study mythology and the psychology of myths.

She began teaching at Grand Valley in the fall of 2001 and was offered the spot as the life journeys professor.

At the end, students were allowed to ask her questions about her life. When asked, she spoke about her mother’s mental breakdown, which is one of the most defining moments of her life.

Instead of ending up as a “brat,” her mother’s breakdown really helped her see the important things in life.

“I thought it was excellent,” said Charissa Jensen, who is studying to be a physician’s assistant. “I thought she presented it very well.”

Wolverton shared a piece that her friend, Lindsay McKenna, dedicated to her in one of McKenna’s books.

“‘My wish is that someday soon, there will be equality for all women in our world,’” she said.

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