EvCC educator remembered as the ‘grandmother’ of human services field

  • Wed Jan 11th, 2012 7:55pm
  • News

By Gale Fiege Herald Writer

EVERETT — A woman known as the “grandmother” of human services education in the region has died.

Mary “Morgan” Livingston, 70, taught at Western Washington University beginning in the mid-1970s when human services was a subject handled by sociology, education and psychology departments.

Most recently Livingston was a part-time lecturer at Western’s Everett campus, as well as at Everett Community College and the Skagit Valley College campuses on Whidbey Island, where she lived.

She died as the result of an illness on Sunday at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. The evening before she died, more than 30 of Livingston’s students participated in a candlelight vigil outside her hospital room. School counselors were on hand Wednesday afternoon when about 75 people gathered at Everett Community College to share their grief and remember the teacher.

Her students included those whose parents also had studied with Livingston. So great was Livingston’s passion for her work, when tight college budgets required cuts to human services programs, she attempted to volunteer to teach the classes removed from college catalogs, officials said.

Livingston, who wore her long gray hair in a neat bun and never left home without a pair of earrings, kept her teaching commitments even just days before her death. She lectured in Everett on Jan. 3 and in Clinton on Jan. 5, her birthday, said her neighbor, friend and former student Hannah Varieur.

Livingston earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology at the University of Oregon. In 2006, an unassuming Livingston was named the Northwest Human Services Association Educator of the Year.

“You go to almost any social service agency in Western Washington and there will be some staff member there who knows Morgan Livingston,” Varieur said. “She changed the lives of so many people. She taught people to be informed and make changes to help the helpless.”

Livingston’s personal and scholarly interests included social change and justice, said her friend and faculty colleague Judy Deiro.

She convinced her students who had been through hard times to value their experiences, believe in themselves and see how they could be of service to others, Deiro said.

“She always had kind and encouraging words for her students, even though she was a tough teacher,” Deiro said. “Many students tell me that Morgan is the faculty member who made the difference for them. She influenced and inspired both new and seasoned human services professionals.”

Student Rachel Opdahl, 39, of Lake Stevens, spoke at the gathering Wednesday at the college.

Livingston was excited about Opdahl’s current internship at the Red Cross office in Everett, and Opdahl often helped Livingston out to the parking lot after a day of teaching.

“She was energetic, elegant and gracious,” Opdahl said. “She wanted us to read, be active in politics and make a difference in our communities as advocates for people in need. She was phenomenal.”

Audrey DeLacey of Snohomish, a recent graduate of Western’s human services program, said Livingston inspired compassion and commitment to make a difference in the world.

“Morgan will not just remain in people’s hearts,” DeLacey said. “Her voice is deeply imbedded in our daily actions, thought processes and our responsibility to others.”

Though Livingston’s family has not set a date for a memorial service, another gathering of remembrance sponsored by Western is in the works, Deiro said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Scholarship fund

To donate to the Morgan Livingston Human Services Scholarship, mail contributions to the Livingston Scholarship Fund, Western Washington University Foundation, 516 High St., Bellingham, WA 98225 or email Carole.Morris@wwwu.edu.