Learning is a Lifelong Adventure for a Walterboro Woman

Anna Lou Marvin

Anna Lou Marvin relaxes in Marvin Park on the East Campus.

Anna Lou Marvin, a longtime friend of Salkehatchie, believes learning should never be reserved solely for those working toward a degree. Her entire life has been devoted to learning, from formalized instruction on the college level to more personal learning from daily reading. College didn’t end for this Georgia native when she earned her degree from Wesleyan College in 1941; she still attends class from time to time at USC Salkehatchie. Her favorite classes center on history or literature, but she has also enjoyed a few religion classes. “I like to keep up,” she says, smiling. “I like to learn. I love the people here, and it’s close by, so I can get here by myself with no trouble.” Her daughter, Alta Mae Marvin, says her mother wanted to get out of the house and be active, and attending class at Salkehatchie seemed like a positive way to do so. She and several of her friends have become regulars around the East Campus halls, part of a state initiative that welcomes students ages 60 and older to take college courses free of charge. “Anna Lou Marvin is a bright spot on our campus,” says Jane Brewer, director of the East Campus. “A true student to her core, she picks out a class each semester that interests her the most and jumps in. The professors enjoy her contributions, and the students seem to just like having her around. She’s always upbeat, always smiling, always having fun on campus.” When Marvin reads for fun, she reads nonfiction biographies or historical accounts that are stacked next to her bed on a table. “If the books on my night table fell over, they would knock me out,” she jokes. “I read constantly.” Marvin believes so strongly in the importance of education that, as a college student, she took an extra job waiting tables so that her father could afford to send her best friend to college as well. The job was in the dining hall of Wesleyan College at a time when meals were served family-style, but with wait staff attending. She laughingly recalls that she did so well she was quickly promoted to serving at the college president’s table, an honor usually reserved for older, more experienced students. After graduating from college, Marvin went on to work as a commissioner in the civil service, first in Atlanta, then in Charleston. Her job was to recruit nonmedical personnel to work on hospital ships during World War II. She later was sent to Miami to recruit secretaries for the War Department in Washington, D.C. She jokes that she was supposed to send a train car full of secretaries and instead recruited enough to fill several train cars, so many that her agency had to tell her to stop recruiting. She met Robert Marvin, who later became a renowned landscape architect, at a Walterboro wedding in which they were both attendants when one of his closest friends married her cousin. At the time, he was attending graduate school at the University of Georgia, studying landscape architecture. They married in 1947 and moved to Walterboro, into the house where she still lives. Marvin considers her marriage and her family her most important accomplishments. Mentioning her children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren brings an immediate smile to her face. “Those are the things I am proud of,” she says, staring out over the park on USC Salkehatchie’s East Campus. “The important things.” The park is a symbol of her family and its place within the Walterboro community. Her husband designed the park for the campus before his death in 2001, but never saw it come to fruition. The area includes beautiful green space, walkways, swings, a deck and patio, and an outdoor classroom. With financial assistance from the community, the park was completed in 2003 and dedicated in memory of Robert Marvin and in honor of Anna Lou Marvin. When asked how she feels about the park and its homage to her family, she says simply, “So humble and appreciative.” Campus faculty and staff see her in the park from time to time, once even removing weeds from the landscape. Alta Mae Marvin says the park is the perfect tribute to her family’s legacy of community service and giving. “We were also taught to be serviceoriented, to give back to the community,” she says. “That is what they dedicated their lives to—that and learning.” Marvin says she can’t think of anything she would want people to know about her, but her daughter can. She knows exactly what this wonderful woman’s grandchildren say about her, and what other people know not long after they meet her. “Her grandchildren will tell you that she has courage and faith,” her daughter says. “She married my father and believed in him when no one knew what a landscape architect was. She moved here and made a life. She faced cancer with courage, and a son’s death with courage, and losing her husband with courage. She has a contagious enthusiasm for life and faces every opportunity and every challenge with courage, grace, and dignity. She has provided a wonderful example as far as outlook on life and wanting to learn, and we all love her for it.”