The Great Depression was a trying time for an entire nation, and Marygrove College was no exception. Having leveraged an enormous debt for the construction of the campus in 1927, the administration led by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) was feeling the pressure to deliver on the promises it had made to its congregation and student community. The IHM order had offered up its very best teaching talent, working tirelessly to implement the highest quality programs for women to be found anywhere at the college and university level. Consequently, the lack of finances and general hard times did not stop students from enrolling in record numbers.
“Marygrove was the place to be,” said Marie Ankley Drouillard, ’34, and at 101 years, the oldest known living alumna of Marygrove College. “The reputation of the IHMs and the schools they opened and supported were well known.”
Marie Ankley was only seven years old when both of her parents were taken from her by the flu epidemic of 1918-20. Her heartbreak on a Michigan farm 10 miles north of Imlay City presented many challenges early on; challenges that would not get the best of her, through the help of key mentors in her life.
“The Depression was tough, but it’s not like we all sat around and said, ‘Oh, what a terrible Depression we’re having,’” Marie says, with a refreshing sarcastic wit. “We just made do; we were all in the same boat.” She endured a cruel upbringing at the hands of her mother’s sister, who beat her “while no one was looking” for bringing pork chops back from the butcher with too much fat on them. She summed up her childhood as performing endless household chores while her cousin menacingly practiced piano scales over and over again. When she graduated high school early at age 16, she was abruptly asked to leave and find work. “As a child, I was just glad to have a roof over my head,” Marie remembers. “But when I had to go off on my own, I felt relieved.”