Who is Marilou Graham?
September 28, 2017
It’s 12:30 pm and I’m sitting outside of Foster Hall as Marin Academy students storm down to the lunch line. I have my phone in hand, recording my conversation with Marilou Graham. I’m nervous to start, but Graham smiles at me in her usual friendly way, and I feel more at ease. I start off by asking her a question I’ve been wondering since I got to know her earlier this summer: what does she do here at MA? “I actually manage the school accounts, they call it accounts receivable, and what I do is manage revenue, all the tuition fees, all the incidentals, all the payments,” said Graham. She’s the school treasurer, working diligently behind the scenes to ensure that the money coming through MA flows in the right direction.
While her job is important, Graham isn’t at the frontline of the MA community. When I asked her if she enjoyed this aspect of her work she said, “I do, I do. My background is in accounting so I really don’t mind being upstairs doing numbers and stuff like that.” Though she may not mind being unknown to the students of MA, I believe that Graham is an important person for the MA community to familiarize themselves with. So without further ado, here are six essential facts about Marilou Graham.
1. I met her on a plane bound for Alaska
The Alaskan wilderness is the last place you’d expect to find Graham but for all she is sweet and intelligent, she is also tough and rugged. We both embarked on an MA hiking trip through Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, this summer. “I love to travel and I like nature, I like hiking,” said Graham. This became apparent when after 11 miles of hiking upwards, Graham appeared unphased and was smiling as per usual. Alaska wasn’t her first trip to the great outdoors. She and her husband have been traveling together for many years, taking on the mountainous terrain of Yosemite and other national parks. As we reminisced about the beautiful glaciers and impossibly tall waterfalls we saw this summer, she said with a laugh, “we’ll go back again.”
2. She was born in the Philippines
Graham made it clear that while growing up in the Philippines was nice, it was completely different from the way it is here in the US. She said one of the key differences was that, “Here at the age of 18 you can live separately from your parents. In the Philippines, no, in your old age you still live with them. Even though adults in the Philippines have their own jobs and everything, they still live at home, until they get married.” Graham was still living with her parents herself at the age of 23 when she and her family emigrated to the United States. Her grandmother had moved here first and had petitioned for the rest of the family to come along.
3. She’s been married to her work here at MA for many years
20 years to be exact. While we sit facing the brand new, Science and Innovation Center, Graham recalls a time before standard MA buildings like the BBLC and the theater ever existed, “In the old days, Marin Academy didn’t look like this”. When talking about the theater building she asked me, “Have you ever seen a building explode?” I replied that that’s something I’ve only ever seen in movies. “Well,” she said, “that happened here!” She knows the ins and outs of Marin Academy the way most people know their own houses. She tells me about the rifle range that was left over from the days of the San Rafael Military Academy and remained there until the BBLC was built. She also explains that the third floor of Foster Hall, where she now works, used to be solely for storage and was often infested by bats. In a half bold, half-joking manner she said, “It was really spooky up there. You know, they even said there were ghosts.”
4. She’s been married to her husband even longer
Graham has been married to her husband for 27 years. His name is John and he is currently a statistics professor at Sonoma State. When I asked her what she first thought of him she couldn’t help but to laugh. “When I first met him, I didn’t like him!” she said. When they met at a dinner with their mutual friends, Graham said that she didn’t think John was enough of a “gentleman.” With time, however, Graham got to know John and learned that he is “a very nice guy.” Nowadays, Graham and her husband can be found taking salsa classes in downtown San Rafael every week, a passion she says that they both enjoy.
5. She has a craft for gardening and needlepoint
I had never seen needlepoint before so when Graham shows me a picture of what looks to be a painting rather than a sewn piece of cloth, I make a remark about how detailed it is. “Yes!” she said, “Very, but I love to do this kind of stuff, I like to build something when I can.” Not only does she build intricate sewing masterpieces, but she is also dedicated to growing plants in her garden at home. She has a vegetable garden in her yard along with various fruit trees. Among her many trees are: persimmons, oranges, apples, figs, and lemons. “I was actually just snacking on the figs earlier today,” said Graham. It became clear to me that the meticulous work Graham puts into her job as “money manager” of MA translates into her hobbies. As opposed to being leisurely hobbies, her passions require the utmost precision and care, very fitting of Graham.
6. She’s every teacher’s favorite staff member.
With her 20 years of dedication to MA, Graham has certainly made an impact. Throughout all of the Alaska trip, it became clear to me that all three of the teachers chaperoning my group adored her. Stori, a chemistry teacher at MA would often exclaim, “Marilou!” after Graham whispered a joke or snide comment in her ear. She is loved by the staff at MA and the handful of students who have gotten to know her understand why this is the case. As for Graham herself, she loves MA with all her heart. “I wouldn’t have worked here for 20 years if I didn’t” she said.