Friday, July 8, 2011

Melva Foley

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Miss Melva Foley was my third grade teacher at the Goodman (Missouri) School, and though she was a native of McDonald County (born in Noel), Goodman was the only local school in which she taught - and that was just for one or two years.

Miss Foley was a new teacher when I entered third grade, new to the Goodman School, and fairly new to teaching as well.  I first met her before school started that year when her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Yost, brought her by the truck stop (cafe, gas station, and bunk house) that my parents owned along with Mom's sister and brother-in-law, Christine and Bob Dobbs.

Miss Foley was a good teacher, but rather quiet and somewhat "mousy."  She taught us the fine art of multiplying, and fostered, at least in me, a continuing desire for education.  One of my clearest memories of that year occurred when I dropped my pencil and did a long reach from the wrong side of my student desk trying to retrieve it.  Somehow I managed to turn the poor desk over and completely disrupt the class!  I also remember Miss Foley coming into class one day with an almost stunned look on her face and announcing that she had heard that the United States would have a man in space within the next twenty-five years!  We were as amazed as she was!

(The year was 1957, and Eisenhower was  President.  Yuri Gargarin became the first human is space four years later, and that same year (1961) Alan Shepard became the first American in space - and the second human to travel into beyond the earth's atmosphere.   1961 was also the year that America's first Catholic President was sworn into office.  The times they were a'changin' - fast!)

We left Goodman and moved twenty miles down the road to Noel, MO, after I completed fourth grade - and I never saw Miss Foley after that.  In fact, I am not even sure whether she did a second year of teaching at Goodman.  The next I heard of her was twenty years or so later when a couple of her relatives, possibly the Yost's, stopped at my parent's appliance store in Noel to visit.  They said that she was working as an administrator at a college.  (They also said that they would tell her they had run into "Little Rocky!"!

Just a few years ago I found (on the Internet) a lengthy decision of the Fifth District Appellate Court of Illinois in which Miss Foley - who was by then Dr. Foley - was the unsuccessful Petitioner.  She had been serving as an instructor, student teacher supervisor, and Chair of the Division of Education at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, for a few years in the 1980's when college officials chose not to renew her contract.  She went before the Human Rights Commission of Illinois arguing that she had been unfairly dismissed due to age and gender discrimination, but the Commission upheld the action of McKendree College.  Dr. Foley then asked the Appellate Court to review that decision, but they upheld the finding of the Human Rights Commission.  It was, it would appear, an ignominious end to a long educational career.

This week I did a Google search on Dr. Foley and learned (sadly) that she passed away on April 7th of this year in Maryville, Illinois, and is buried in Staunton, Illinois.  She was eighty-four at the time of her death.

One of the interesting things that I learned about Dr. Foley from her obituary was that she contracted tuberculosis during her freshman year of high school and was hospitalized for four years.  When she was finally released from the hospital, she returned to high school and graduated as the valedictorian.

Dr. Foley got her Bachelor's Degree from National College in Kansas City, her Master's at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and her PhD in Education from Northern Colorado University in Greeley.  Besides teaching at Goodman, she also taught public school in Olive Hill, KY, and Windsor, MO.   She was a college instructor at National College in Kansas City, Berea College in Berea, KY, Southwestern College in Winfield, KS, Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, KS, and the aforementioned McKendree College.  She also worked for several years as a librarian and was active in the United Methodist Church and several charities.

Dr. Melva Jean Foley was a good elementary school teacher, and she appears to have led a very complete and challenging life.

1 comment:

Robin Hess said...

Miss Foley was my 6th grade teacher in Windsor, MO., 1970-71. Just thought of her and came across your blog when I googled her name. What an interesting life she led after leaving us! She was very quiet but I enjoyed having her for a teacher and always wondered what became of her. So glad you wrote about her!