A Sweeping Liberal Arts Education

By Marcia Cohn Growdon, ’67 PhD’76

IMG_4202I particularly like the question, how did you find your way into your field.  There is a slightly worn saying, life is what happens while you are making other plans.  A child of Sputnik, I, like so many others, began to focus on the sciences in high school.  I loved biology, which in the early 1960s was still botany and zoology.  I came to Stanford as a biology major.  But I was also really eager to go to Stanford-in-France.  My father, class of ’25, only made one suggestion about my education, which was that to prepare for Europe, I should take the art history survey courses – the same ones he had taken forty years before!  So I did that at the beginning of my Sophomore year.  I was stunned at how the sweep of visual history appealed to me, and I was equally thrilled at how well I did in the classes.  There was a dramatic contrast between how natural the visual arts felt, compared to how I was struggling in organic chemistry and the brand new human biology series.  A three-quarter break, with almost eight months in Europe made it clear to me that art history was my future.  Three degrees later, I did, suddenly, have to pause again.  After helping my husband start a retail computer business, I welcomed an opportunity to be part of the institution that became the Nevada Museum of Art.  As a curator, as a director, I had come home.  I later taught the “pyramids to Picasso” survey courses at the University of Nevada, Reno.  Throughout my career, I loved introducing people to the visual arts.  Moral of the story – Stanford offers a sweeping liberal arts education for a good reason.  Sample it all and listen to your gut instincts.