Friday, March 12, 2010

Sr. Mary Fabian

Had an awesome coffee with Margaret Richardson, a self-identified journalist-turned-design-journalist, proudly 70-years-old, and all human. We had never met before, but I had to give her a big hug when we parted.

"Where do we start?" she asked, when we sat down. "Only the interesting stuff!" I demanded, so she told me the story about her seven and a half years living as a nun in a convent, teaching at a Chicago Catholic girl's school in the late '50s and early '60s, faculty editor of the school newspaper. Her students were the daughters of cops and mafia, and the few black girls had to contend with an atmosphere that was racially years away from the Civil Rights movement happening elsewhere in the country.

In fact, it was an incident around race inside the school that caused Sr. Mary Fabian, as she was known, to - gasp - leave the convent before taking her final vows. The church arranged an interview for her at a magazine called Catholic News, and two weeks later, she was living in New York City. Thus Margaret Richardson began her wonderful career, eventually becoming Editor of U&lc. What a story.

Margaret asked me to participate in a design class she teaches in the summer for Portland State University, "a research class in real time with real professionals." Her students visit 16 different studios around Portland and talk to the principals about their work, their process, their space. I'd like to take that class!

After we settled on a date, I wrote down my email address on her calendar. "Don't you like how that pen writes?" she asked. Yes, it's nice. "Keep it! I get five of them a week." She had already given me a pocket pack of kleenex and two books.

I really enjoyed Margaret ... exuberant, authentic, so stylish. I pointed out that her outfit - which I bet she designed herself - reminded me of a post-modern nun's habit, something that she'd clearly heard before. "As my husband says: Once a nun, always a nun."

1 comment:

Mike said...

Margaret was my neighbor for several years and she gave me a couple of books, too. What a great encounter. She's a true asset to Portland's design community and a generous soul. I never knew she was a nun-in-training, how cool. Hope you have a great time w/ her class.