Distinguished educator and dedicated community leader Dr. Mary Marockie of Wheeling shone in the spotlight at the annual Friends Dinner, presented by the West Virginia Northern Community College Foundation and the Friends of the College group, last weekend.
Marockie was recognized as this year's honoree by the college entities, in appreciation for her continuing service to Northern in advisory and leadership roles. She has served as president of the college foundation's board of trustees for six years.
The reception and dinner were held in the Education Building on the college's Wheeling campus Saturday, March 15. The theme for the festivities was "An Evening in Tuscany," in a nod to Marockie's Italian heritage. Northern's culinary arts department prepared an authentic six-course Italian repast for the dinner. The honoree proclaimed the feast "the best ever."
Table decorations and background decor in the building's multi-purpose room and dining room were designed and executed by talented Northern staff members Rana Spurlock and Hilary Curto. To set the Tuscan mood, strolling accordion player George Hvizdak entertained guests during the reception preceding the dinner. Prior to the serving of dinner, the accordionist and tenor Mitchell Spurlock serenaded Marockie with "Bella Notte" ("Beautiful Night"), an Italian musical selection. Robert DeFrancis, Northern dean of community relations, served as emcee for the event.
Nick Zervos, president of the Friends of the College, introduced Marockie and presented the 2014 award to her. He noted that she has given her time generously to help the community. Referring to a biographical sketch printed in a program for the evening event, Zervos remarked, "That two pages doesn't even touch all that she has done."
Zervos cited Marockie's leadership, vision and hard work. "She'll do anything we ask to improve students' opportunities here at the college," he said.
He told the honoree, "I enjoy your persistence, your leadership, your insistence to do something right."
In a brief, heartfelt acceptance, Marockie said that upon being told by Zervos that she was to be the 2014 award recipient, she responded, "I'm not famous enough, Nick." She then told the audience that she was honored to have been chosen by the Friends of the College's board of directors.
Marockie recalled that about 12 years ago, the late John Paull, an executive of Eagle Manufacturing in Wellsburg, recommended her for service on the college foundation's board of trustees. She said she soon learned the purpose of WVNCC and its impact on the community.
She thanked Dr. Martin J. Olshinsky, Northern president, who, she said, "has supported the foundation without reservation.
He has been superb, as well as Dianna, his lovely wife."
Looking back, Marockie said that her father, who was born in a small village, spent 10 years as an apprentice in the design and tailoring business in Italy before emigrating to the United States. She likened that apprenticeship to the education and training that Northern students receive in a variety of fields today.
For immigrants, "transporting the culture of food was a means to preserving the past," she observed. Demonstrating her research skills, she related that Italian is the number-one favored foreign cuisine in the United States, with Mexican and Chinese food ranking second and third, respectively.
Marockie said that three main values were instilled in her home: tenacity, hard work and determination. She said her parents taught their children determination "to be educated, to achieve and succeed, to fulfill our dreams."
Noting that "you become what you're around," Marockie expressed appreciation for her career with the Regional Education Service Agency VI, which provided "opportunities I would not have had other places."
She said her membership in the Wheeling Newcomers Club has "kept me socially active." Referring to the club's open-ended membership policy, she quipped, "You know, you can be a newcomer in Wheeling forever."
A total of 22 family members, including her husband, Dr. Henry Marockie, and their daughter and son-in-law, Felicia and Michael Fisher, and their grandson, Luke, attended the dinner. The honoree saluted her husband, Hank, as "my pillar of strength, motivator and, most of all, my inspiration."
Congratulations also are extended to Austin Gage, a Wheeling Park High School student, who won the state Poetry Out Loud competition at the Culture Center in Charleston March 15.
Gage will represent West Virginia at the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest in Washington, D.C., Tuesday and Wednesday, April 29-30.For the state competition, Gage recited "I Find No Peace" by Thomas Wyatt, "Strange Meeting" by Wilfred Owen and "[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]" by E.E. Cummings. His teacher is Gail Adams.
Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer. net.