The Marston Brothers, Plymouth State University and the American Dream
Lynch of the USNH Board of Trustees, PSU Provost Virginia Barry and I participated in a very special honor for PSU and USNH. We traveled to New London, N.H., to the home of Charles and Norma Marston, where we were privileged to bestow an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree on our friend, former trustee and great public servant of education, Charlie Marston. Charlie’s honorary degree is richly deserved. The citation for the degree reads in part:
“The world is indebted to you for your educational leadership for over 40 years. Your service in many positions such as a teacher, then as an administrator in the New Hampshire Department of Education, including positions as consultant, assistant division chief in the Division of Instruction, chief of the Division of Special Services, acting commissioner, deputy commissioner and finally as commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, has been exemplary and a model of selfless dedication for us all.”
Over this distinguished career, Charlie Marston lent his strong leadership, a lofty sense of civic responsibility and his great good will to the advancement of public education in New Hampshire. Today, Charlie is waging a courageous struggle against cancer. On the day we visited him at his home, he was surrounded by his wife of nearly 50 years, Norma, his son Jonathan, daughters Jamie and Jill, some favorite neighbors, his nephew, Christopher, and his twin brother, Bill.
Charlie Marston received his M.Ed. from Plymouth State, Bill his B.S. Both Charlie and Bill served on the USNH Board of Trustees together, Charlie ex officio as New Hampshire commissioner of education, Bill as the Plymouth State alumni trustee. The mood at Charlie and Norma’s that day was festive and celebratory, a reunion of family and friends to celebrate a very special person’s achievement. The wonderful wise-cracking, self-deprecating humor of Charlie and Bill punctuated the conversation, as did stories of their youthful escapades growing up in Bristol and of their days as extraordinary baseball players, some of the best ever to have come out of New Hampshire. Stories of their hi-jinks even crept into a special version of the doctoral citation Chairman Lynch read during the conferral of Charlie’s degree.
What is the value of a single life and career devoted to a great cause? More than any of us can adequately describe or repay. To look at the careers of Charlie and Bill Marston is to know living examples of happiness as defined by the ancient Greek philosophers: “excellence applied in the pursuit of great purpose.” In all the phases of his career Charlie championed the special value education offers people everywhere: an assist toward economic and social mobility, the chance for a better life and the opportunity to contribute in turn to succeeding generations. Charlie Marston made the American Dream a reality for thousands during his career. Bill Marston, holder of PSU’s Silas Pearl Award for Lifetime Distinguished Service, continues even in his retirement to make the same kind of service contributions as his brother. The Marstons have been a great team all their lives.
In Robert Bolt’s play, A Man for all Seasons, Sir Thomas More urges a young man ambitious for worldly fame and fortune, to instead devote his life to educating others. Their dialog is as follows:
More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher. Perhaps even a great one.
Rich: And if I was, who would know it?
More: Yourself, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad audience, that.
Charlie Marston is that teacher. Bill Marston is that teacher. Lives of excellence applied in the pursuit of great purpose. They have taught so many of us. And we all know it.
—Donald P. Wharton
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