Mary Blackwell

Profile Updated: May 8, 2023
Residing In Appleton, WI USA
Occupation Retired Chemistry Professor
Children Hilary Laurel, born 1969

Q: What have you been up to since you graduated?

A: I went off to University of Illinois - Urbana, "studied" philosophy, cut a lot of classes, and joined the peace movement. After sophomore year, I got married for a really great reason: I hated having roommates in the dorms. Couple years later, decided to have a baby for another great reason: the baby clothes in the department stores were so cute. The baby became my gloriously talented and fabulous daughter, Hilary Laurel McLean. And I dropped out of school during my senior year, just months from graduating, for another good reason: I preferred to watch daytime soap operas.

They ended the student draft deferment. My husband, Mike McLean (from Jacksonville IL), got drafted. He was able to defer his drafting by signing up to join the Air Force as an officer. He became a pilot of tankers (KC 135s) right about when Nixon changed from a mostly ground war to a hugely air war, and spent a lot of time in Thailand. We lived in several air force bases (Laredo, Castle, Westover, Plattsburgh).

In 1974, I returned to school to finish my BA and decided I wanted to go to medical school. I needed a couple of extra years of schooling which I carried out at UMass - Amherst and SUNY-Plattsburgh.

I yielded to the siren call of my generation by setting forth to liberate myself. I went out to Berkeley for another good reason: I had always wanted to live in SF and so I applied to SF State with UC Berkeley, a far better school, as backup, and if I enrolled in grad school I would actually get paid a living wage. As I had no other skills, and hated work of any sort, this was an ideal solution. SF State turned me down, but the chemistry department at UC Berkeley accepted me.

It took me six years to finish my PhD while also being a single mother. After that, I spent six months writing a computer program at IBM, then 3 years as a post doc at Imperial College - London (I had applied for and received an NIH postdoctoral fellowship to go there). Once again, the latter was done for a good reason -- I wanted to be with the love of my life, whom I'd met when he was a post doc at Berkeley, who then returned to go to medical school at Charing Cross Hospital in London.

Since one of us needed meaningful employment, after 3 years I returned to do a post doc for two years at U of I - Urbana (and wow was that mindboggling, coming back 20 years after graduating, like some inverted Rip Van Winkle, since Urbana hadn't changed in 20 years, but I had).

Finally, it was time to get a "real job" even though I had entirely lost all ambition but still ya gotta eat. I applied for academic jobs, accepted the first one I was offered - as assistant professor of chemistry at Lawrence University -- managed enough ambition to get tenured, taught physical chemistry for about 20 years, and then retired in 2012.

Since then, for the first time in my life, I have been in my element, doing exactly what I have always wanted to do, which is to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. Turns out I don't want to do much besides living with dogs and creating 3d furniture and horses and stuff on Second Life and other virtual worlds.

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May 31, 2023 at 1:33 PM

Posted on: May 08, 2023 at 12:04 PM

Mary Blackwell has left an In Memory comment for her Profile.
Jan 11, 2023 at 9:14 PM

I knew Jon only during our senior year at ETHS and the summer after. The few times (two or three at most) I hung out with him - driving around in his tan VW sedan of some sort - were very memorable because of the time - that odd summer between childhood and independence (seemingly a thing of the past now) - and because we were both interested in the counterculture. I remember going with him to see Bergman's Virgin Spring at that theatre on Sheridan just south of the Evanston/Chicago border and that big bend, the carwash, and that humongous cemetary. After that, I was depressed for weeks. But then we went to see Truffaut's Jules and Jim and that was less jarring. I did not understand either movie; I just knew that it meant there was a lot of stuff I did not understand yet.

It was kind of always like that with Jon: he was always looking for more than he already knew. He inspired me to do the same.


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Oct 17, 2022 at 2:56 PM

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Jan 14, 2022 at 11:15 AM

Posted on: Jan 04, 2022 at 8:49 AM

This morning I was remembering Fredericks - the corner store kinda near Washington School, on Greenleaf - that had a huge penny candy case, and Mrs. Frederick would give out the candy to the kids - likmaid,huge pretzels, bitohoney, licorice sticks, those dots on paper, so much more - and put them in little brown paper bags. I thought she was so scary and crabby, now I know how kind and patient she was, waiting for us to choose things, never saying a word.

I was wondering if anyone is interested in having somewhere on here where you can post photos of your families or memories of childhood in Evanston?

Best wishes for health and happiness in 2022.

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Oct 19, 2021 at 10:38 AM

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Oct 17, 2020 at 8:49 AM

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Oct 16, 2017 at 11:39 AM

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Sep 13, 2017 at 2:23 PM
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Oct 18, 2017 at 2:50 PM

Posted on: Sep 13, 2017 at 9:39 AM

I just noticed people have maybe been discussing politics here. It's pretty hard to resist, given how unprecedentedly insane politics have become - I mean, we thought Viet Nam and Watergate were already insane, and now this.

BUT since political discussions tend to get heated and people tend to end up sometimes behaving badly (I include myself in this) we would like to keep people from discussing politics here in our WHAT'S NEW feed so that we have, yes, a "SAFE SPACE" that we all can enjoy risk free.

To this end, I created a new forum, POLITICS 2017, where you can post opinions, links, etc. and share your thoughts with your peers (for we all know how wise we've become and how short-sighted younger folk are). I don't know if people will use this forum, but if you do, please keep it civil.

Here is a link to the forum:

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Sep 12, 2017 at 9:26 PM

Posted on: Sep 12, 2017 at 8:36 PM

Have a look at the video Sidney Caselberry found of our last football game - I don't know much about it, but perhaps you all can reminisce with details. Here is the link - it is also posted on our homepage.

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Jul 06, 2017 at 10:25 AM
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Sep 14, 2017 at 11:42 AM

Posted on: Jul 06, 2017 at 10:24 AM

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Jul 06, 2017 at 10:23 AM
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Jul 04, 2017 at 1:10 PM

Get up off your duffs, kits!

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Jun 25, 2017 at 10:55 AM
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Apr 14, 2017 at 8:55 AM

Posted on: Apr 13, 2017 at 7:56 PM

Woah - some of us have not yet retired but are managing to achieve national attention!

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Apr 11, 2017 at 7:38 AM

Posted on: Apr 08, 2017 at 5:44 PM

It’s been a year since our last party and The Planners were bored,
Soooooo……..Let’s Party!
Saturday, June 24
Pizza, beverages and of course Birthday Cake will be served as we sing Happy Birthday to Us.
Sorry, classmates only due to room constraints.
Details and directions will be sent closer to our party date.
Hope to see you!

Feb 28, 2017 at 7:58 AM
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Posted: Jul 06, 2017 at 10:23 AM