On meeting her, you would not have to stretch your imagination to see Marcia Savage as the president of a college. Or two. Or Dean of the College at Clark University. After which she served as President at Hartford College and Manhattanville College, respectively. She is, on first impression dignified, intimidating, commanding. At the grand and wonderful age of 76, she hasn’t lost an iota of her self; her self-confidence, her self-knowledge, and her huge spirit of candid curiosity and human generosity.
Marcia Savage came to the Berkshires to retire. She and her partner of 34 years, Carol Sica, had maintained a summer home in Sheffield for many years. When their daughter, Julie, was 12 years old, Marcia decided she had missed enough of Julie’s youth. Marcia’s sister, Julie’s biological mother, had tragically died a fast death from cancer when Julie was only six years old. There was no question for Marcia and Carol that they would raise Julie. Carol had been the stay-at-home parent, but at that point when Marcia’s term was nearing its end at Manhattanville, she felt it was time to step back from academia and closer to her family. But she has never stepped back from learning.
Even before moving to Berkshire County permanently, Marcia was approached by Women’s Services (now the Elizabeth Freeman Center) to be on their board. Soon she was Executive Director of the grassroots organization, expanding it, emboldening it. Eventually the Community Health Program took over what she calls her ‘continuing liberal arts education;’ she began learning on their board and then, as Executive Director, contributed to building CHP, a program she enthusiastically endorses as “a fascinating model of the future of healthcare.”
CHP was where the fateful meeting of Gwendolyn VanSant and Marcia Savage happened. After these two born leaders butt heads on some issues initially, they fortuitously recognized each other and found themselves in a relationship of mutual admiration; Gwendolyn welcomed the wisdom of her first true mentor for BRIDGE, and Marcia became another President, President of the Board of Directors of BRIDGE.
It is inevitable that Marcia would pay forward her leadership expertise to Gwendolyn, and that Gwendolyn would gratefully absorb Marcia’s generous endowments to begin to make BRIDGE what it is today and still becoming. The humanity so evident in these high achievers of humanity makes them exceptional and extraordinary.
Recalling her time as Assistant Dean of Students at Clark University in the 1960’s, Marcia is still horrified by the results of illegal abortions, on being called to students’ dorm rooms to witness young women close to bleeding to death, and then witnessing these butchered young women being passed over in the emergency room because the hospitals didn’t like their choice. Those emergency rooms are where Marcia learned to speak up. Loudly and clearly. Marcia doesn’t mince words.
She was much beloved at Clark University, and she recalls with great nostalgia and gratitude the tribute given her upon leaving. At a disco in 1970’s New York City, she was honored by students, many students, whom she had helped over the years, through abortions, through drugs, through family problems, who came back to show her what they had made of their lives, wonderful lives, contributing lives, lives that they attested may not have been possible without Marcia’s advocacy and nurturing and guidance.
It is evident that she truly loves young people, and her compassion for them seems limitless. Her compassion for people, her humanity, her love of learning is what drives her still. In spite of some debilitating health issues, she was so appalled to learn at a recent BRIDGE meeting that there are children going hungry in Berkshire County that she immediately agreed to be in charge of finding a way to make sure they are fed. And you know they will be fed - because she’ll be calling on you and you will help, because our donors, too, are appalled at the idea of children going hungry in Berkshire County.
Due to the tragically growing number of students in poverty in our county, Pittsfield just opened up free breakfast and lunch to all students and Lenox recognizes this shameful reality in their strategic plan. It is impacting our whole county. Currently, BRIDGE has programs in Lenox, Pittsfield and Berkshire Hills where we support these students!
You can support them too. And, really, Marcia is quite convincing and quite irresistible. (DV)