Martha J. Tenney '83

On the lasting effects of her time at Oberlin: "Years later I have a career in public health and the things I love are the things I loved that helped create the squiggly route to NOW."


At Oberlin I got involved in lots of things, but my favorites were the ones that weren't planned with thoughts of the future at all. I loved: language classes and Magic Circle Children's Theatre and Mimework and Steel Drums and ExCo and Winter Term classes like sign language and Tai Chi. I hung out in coops and off campus housing and listened to great stories and laughed a lot. I was an "undeclared major" for as long as I could, and played the oboe in a big ole closet at Talcott. Claire Siverson and I came up with the term "Fun is Good" as part of a Magic Circle Children's Theatre skit and it has stuck- I now keep a file called "Fun is Good" both at work and at home. I learned to cook BIG in Fairchild--I still cook way too much food with 100 people in mind. I got to know that special mix of "smart" and "humble" - two characteristics that still make so much sense in this post-Oberlin world.

Years later I have a career in public health and the things I love are the things I loved that helped create the squiggly route to NOW. Oberlin got me to Thailand because of sign language and an Obie there (Charles Reilly) who helped me find a job and a place where I could work with Thai deaf and languages and community building. I now create stories in the form of digital storytelling--a cool way for people to share their stories and be a part of a history and/or a part of change. The video below is a story I made a couple of years ago about an experience I had when I went back to Thailand post-tsunami. (Many thanks to Mark Kelso for the music.) I am a novice digital storyteller but love the medium; I'm looking for ways to use it with future public health and people-oriented action and adventures.

I appreciate Oberlin for the 4 years that I was there, but also as that place that has become a point of reference for life after graduation. I still look for the Oberlin brand of smart and humble and enjoy a life of change and fun and the spirit of what's next.


Submitted by Martha J. Tenney '83

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