by Elli Caldwell, '06, SCA Staff
It has been 51 years since Marty Talbot received a letter that changed her life, and in its wake, the lives of so many others. I spoke with Marty recently about how it all began.
Tell me about the letter. How did you respond?
It was from my professor, Dr. A. Scott Warthin, who told me that another of his students, Elizabeth Cushman (later Titus Putnam), was visiting Olympic National Park with her thesis proposing a Student Conservation Corps. He suggested that because of my enthusiasm for the outdoors, I should join her. I just happened to be visiting in the Pacific Northwest at that time and Olympic was a short bus trip away. It was just meant to be.
Where did your love for the outdoors come from?
I was brought up hiking and riding in the Coast Range of California with my parents who instilled in me a love of and respect for nature and the outdoors. We took pack trips in the Sierras and some were with the Sierra Club. Being in the mountains was heaven to me.
So you joined Liz at Olympic National Park. What happened then?
We started traveling and delivering Liz's thesis to national parks, and later to universities, and wildlife conferences to promote the program and enlist participants. We had the support of so many people including our parents, who shared and encouraged our vision.
I remember learning as an SCA volunteer that SCA was started by two women in 1957, and I was immediately in awe. Did you ever think that what you were doing was revolutionary? Two women traveling around the country, chasing down a dream?
No. We just saw that our parks were in trouble and thought, why couldn’t students help out? We approached it from an educational perspective, to learn about the parks and different branches of government, to get the support we needed and get help to the agencies and parks.
For young women like me, following in your footsteps through SCA is empowering. Looking back, do you consider yourself a role model for young women who want to change the world?
I really didn’t think much of it at the time. We weren’t really women’s activists or bra-burners! We just did the work the parks needed. I suppose we did break into a male-dominated field, but we didn’t think of it that way.
Having been there from the very beginning, how has SCA changed over the last 50 years?
It has been a privilege to see how it has grown and developed - from serving not just the National Parks but the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and so many other organizations; from enlisting just high school boys to high school girls and boys; from wilderness areas to urban areas; from being trained by government agency staff members to now training them. I am so impressed by it, and by the number of SCA volunteers that go on to work in the conservation field for their whole lives. I always get some overwhelming emotion that wells up inside me when I visit a program and meet these enthusiastic, committed young people and know that I had a hand in getting them there.
Thank you, Marty. We are so grateful that you did.