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Marti Graves proves learning is a life-long adventure

Marti Graves

From The Ichabod - Winter 2019

Marti (Newell) Graves has always had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. So much so, that during the 23-year period from 1962 to 1985, she was almost always a student at Washburn University. Work and family life played a role in the lengthy enrollment, but Graves, ba ’85, always found a way to take classes.

“It’s harder for non-traditional students because they have many things going on in their lives with families and businesses to run,” Graves said. “Some years I could only take three hours, and that was all I could handle.”

Even though she worked full time and raised her daughter, Susan Rousey, b ed ’89, in the process, Graves still graduated in the top 10 percent of her class.

“I always looked forward to coming on campus no matter how busy my life and schedule was – I loved coming to class and absorbing the academic environment,” Graves said.

After ramping up her coursework with the guidance of an advisor, Graves graduated in 1985 with a degree in general studies and a concentration in gerontology. She remembers she graduated within a week of her daughter’s graduation from Topeka West High School, a deadline she used as inspiration for her success.

“I have visions of her studying at the dining room table,” Rousey said of her mother. “It implanted in me the work ethic of what you’re supposed to do when you go to school. That you should be concentrated to finish and achieve your goals.”

For Graves, the strength to keep going came from her own mother.

“My mother raised me to be a strong woman and to keep my promises and to reach my goals,” Graves said. “When people of any age finish their goals and obtain a degree at Washburn, it opens up many doors in so many ways.”

One Adventure After Another

After graduating with a class of 17 seniors in 1961 from Lane High School in Lane, Kansas, Graves moved to San Francisco for a year before returning to Kansas to attend Washburn. Throughout her time at Washburn as well as afterward, she had a successful administrative support career in orthopedic sales from 1963 to 2003.

From 1985 to 2002, Graves was involved with Serenata Farms, 240 acres of land she owned with her late husband, Bud Newell, in Big Springs, Kansas. There they founded the Oregon Trail Adventure Company, a tourist destination drawing interest from around the world – including the Russian delegation visiting through a cultural exchange program facilitated by Kansas Gov. Joan Finney.

In 1990, they developed Serenata Farms School of Equestrian Arts, a therapeutic riding program for children with disabilities and children in nearby alternative schools. The program was studied by former Washburn assistant professor of psychology, Pamelyn MacDonald, and the findings were presented at the National Association of Riding for the Handicapped convention and the Horses and Healing Conference.

After graduating from Washburn, she found a love of volunteering. She served the Rotary Foundation as an officer, and she joined the Daughters of the American Revolution as she had an interest in studying family history.

In 1994, Graves was named one of the Top 10 Business Women by the American Business Women’s Association. She also served as the president of the Washburn Alumni Association board of directors
in 2002.

In 2003, Graves moved to Texas to be with her mother, and then in 2012 she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, to be with her daughter and son-in-law, Barrette Wade.

At 75 years young, Graves recently took on another adventure: she married Bill Graves on Sept. 30, 2018. The Virginia farm boy and Kansas farm girl found a mutual interest in researching their ancestry. The two plan to travel to England in the spring to continue studying their family lineages.

Keep Going

With all of her many adventures, something that’s remained as consistent as her love of learning is her dedication to her alma mater: She has given back to Washburn every year for more than 20 years.

“I give back so that I can help enable students to have the quality of education they can get at Washburn,” Graves said. “It’s important to me to help maintain the standards and good moral foundations of Washburn, because it was my place to become a better citizen.”

Rousey can attest to the impact Washburn had on her mother.

“She felt empowered at Washburn,” Rousey said. “It was an era where it wasn’t the norm for women to be going to college, especially later in life like she was. It was a big accomplishment.”

One thing’s for sure, the advice she would give to today’s students is the same she received from her mother and now shares with her two granddaughters, Jessica and Olivia: Keep going.

“Give yourself to the university, your studies and your exams. You’ll receive so much more in return, and it will be with you all of your life,” Graves said. “No matter what, keep going.”

Winter 2019 Ichabod magazine cover with Bob Dole statue on front

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2018-19 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

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