The life of NNU professor and adopted Idahoan Marian Washburn exemplifies how the everyday moments of a well- lived life can leave a lasting impact. She never married. Friends tell us she came close a couple of times but was happily single. Ruthie Weber, a former neighbor, friend and faculty wife, recalls that Marian “was not a hilarious person but had a reservedly good time.” Miss Washburn enjoyed games and was notoriously formidable at Scrabble. In fact, one group of ladies quit playing with her because she always won considering she knew so many obscure short words that would land a huge score.
Although reserved and proper, she was also active and down to earth. She enjoyed golf and swimming and was a member of the Nampa Recreation Center, which she called “the spa.” She enjoyed reading the classics, and her favorite authors were C.S. Lewis and E. Stanley Jones. She was an active churchwoman at Nampa College Church of the Nazarene and was much sought after to teach ladies’ Bible study groups. After her retirement from teaching, she traveled with the senior group from Nampa College Church and sang in the senior choir. She cared about the little city of Nampa and served on its Planning and Zoning Committee for 12 years.
She brought a brilliant mind, a love of reading, an appreciation of precise language usage and a quiet faith.
Marian Washburn was the firstborn child of a Nazarene family who planted churches around New England. She graduated from Eastern Nazarene College with a bachelor’s degree in literature in 1938. Having been hired by NNC after completing her master’s degree at Boston University, she moved out West in 1941. She brought with her a brilliant mind, a love of reading, an appreciation of precise language usage and a quiet faith. She lived in Nampa the rest of her life but never lost her New England reserve or her Boston accent.
Current NNU Associate Professor Kevin Dennis (’77), who majored in English under Miss Washburn’s teaching, remembers her as “impossibly demanding.” He relates that in several classes she assigned one major work such as Homer’s “Iliad” or Dante’s “Divine Comedy” per week. Miss Washburn scheduled only two class periods for discussion and one for an objective test and in-class essay to cover each of these weighty works. “She asked too much, but she picked good books,” Dennis continues, adding that when he teaches Greek and Roman Classics, he still uses the editions Miss Washburn assigned. Miss Washburn loved her subject and communicated that love to her students.
Miss Washburn challenged her students by expecting excellence from them and respected them by taking them seriously. She maintained relationships with many of her former students over the years by exchanging letters and pictures and keeping their missionary cards close at hand. She never forgot a former student, and when she met one unexpectedly she was always ready to share a recent anecdote the student would appreciate, even if it had been 40 years since they had last met.
Miss Washburn endeared herself to others and was always kind when speaking of other people. She was both conscientious and extremely considerate. Although a very private person who did not discuss spiritual matters with others, Miss Washburn’s faith was central to her character. She became a mentor to young faculty and their wives. Ruthie Weber mentions that where Marian Washburn was, there was peace. She had a way of calming situations when people started to stew about proposed changes at the college.
Despite the distance between them, Marian maintained close relationships with her parents, her three younger sisters and her younger brother and their children. She went back East for entire summers to be with her family and to help care for her parents as they aged. When it was time to give away part of her huge library, she selected a book for each niece and nephew and inscribed it with a personal dedication to her or him. Sharon Castledine (’68), a friend who helped her in her last years, says Miss Washburn was “proof that closeness has nothing to do with geography.”
Marian Washburn demonstrated Christ’s love to others through her actions rather than witnessing with words. Her quiet faith and understated brilliance make her an example of “a more excellent way.”