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Martha Vaughan illustrates the connections that her family has had with Montgomery College.Deep Roots, Many Branches

Vaughan Family Tree Flourishes at Montgomery College

By Martha Vaughan

I grew up in Rockville in the 1950s and 1960s, in a family of six children. We were all products of Montgomery County Public Schools, but we were all very different. My parents encouraged our individuality and our pursuit of interests as diverse as music, art, dance, literature, theater, and sports, while pursuing their own interests as well.

Planting the Seeds

In 1966, Montgomery College opened its Rockville Campus. My 57-year-old dad decided to jump on the college bandwagon and started taking classes. He was a civil engineer, and although he had taken night classes at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1930s, he had never earned a degree; most of his training was on the job. His long career included employment with Montgomery County, the City of Rockville, and the US Department of Justice.

He recalled, “If I had a degree in 1937 and practiced engineering the same, I’d have gone back anyway to take a retreading course. You almost have to, with the changes in science, especially physics and math. I feel I’m up to date now.”

My dad earned his associateís degree in 1970, the same year I earned my BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. When he graduated, my dad credited some of his success at MC to the small class sizes, the individual attention professors give to their students, and the bonding that occurs with both classmates and professors.

“They tell me I was a class participator. I spoke out when I felt like it, and that’s what I liked over there. They wanted you to participate,” he remembered.

During those four years, he suffered a heart attack and ended up retiring in early 1970, but he persevered with his studies the whole time.

He was so proud of his achievement, and I think it meant a lot to him to be going to school with all of his children. My parents were planning to move to Florida at the end of that summer, taking the three youngest with them. When my dad suddenly passed away in August, everyoneís plans changed.

Branching Out

My brother Bill ’72 quickly enrolled at MC in time to start classes in September 1970. He eventually received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from George Mason University and is now chief financial officer for Prince William County in Virginia. He is also a professional musician who performs regularly with his band (billvaughanmusic.com) in the Shenandoah Valley area. He met his wife, Laurel ’72, at MC. They have been married for almost 40 years and have two grown children.

An art major at MC, Laurel had a long career as a graphic designer before retiring. She is now a landscape artist who exhibits regularly in the Shenandoah Valley area.

My sister Judy ’69 transferred to MC from Virginia Commonwealth University after changing majors, and earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland. She then earned an MSW and has been director of the Montgomery County Commission for Women for 30 years. She is a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She is a part-time faculty member in the Sociology Department at MC and received an Outstanding Achievement Award from MC.

Later in the 1970s, my brother Ben ’75, and sister Deborah ’78, attended MC for their first two years before transferring and earning graduate and undergraduate degrees. Ben is now a partner in the law firm of Armstrong, Donahoe, Ceppos, Vaughan, and Rhoads. He received an Outstanding Alumni Award from MC in 2012. Debby is a mother of three and teaches high school business math in Baltimore County.

In the 1990s my mother began taking music classes at MC as a senior citizen. It was a way for her to practice piano, an avocation she had loved all her life. We attended many of the duet recitals she performed in the years before and after she retired from her career as a social worker for Prince William County in Virginia.

Although the world and MC have been through many changes since then, I like to think that more than 40 years later, the things that made MC so appealing to a nontraditional learner like my dad are the same things that appeal to our diverse, ever-growing, and ever-changing student population today.

All six of us still live in either Maryland or Virginia. Some of us have children, some have grandchildren. Some of us are retired, some are actively pursuing multiple careers, and all are pursuing multiple interests.

Although our paths have diverged in many directions, MC made a difference, large or small, in each of our lives.


Martha Vaughan

Since 1996, Vaughan has taught illustration, graphic design, and production in the Communication Arts and Technologies Department at the Rockville Campus. Her illustrations have appeared regularly in The Washington Post for over 30 years, as well as in regional and national magazines, newspapers, and books. Her digital images of wildlife and nature themes have been licensed for greeting cards, posters, and apparel to the National Wildlife Federation, the World Wildlife Fund, and United States Humane Society. View her artwork at marthavaughan.com.


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