Charlene Samples ’77
As a graduate of the 1970s, Charlene Samples says she and her classmates were steadfastly focused on graduating and getting coveted good, well-paying jobs.
As it turned out, there was no better place for Samples ’77 to prepare to accomplish such a task than at Marietta.
“Being a small school, professors got to know us, and I really appreciated those connections,” she says. “When I returned to campus many years later as a member of the Board of Trustees, it never failed to amaze me when professors from my time as a student saw me on campus and remembered me.”
While Samples was not an athlete, on the debate team or a member of Greek Life, she found her people and home away from home by spending a great deal of her time in the basement of Andrews Hall, where the radio and television studios were housed.
“My fellow broadcasters were my sorority/fraternity and we had a great time putting together the news, election coverage, classical music programming and much more,” she says. “With all the little rooms that were down there, none of us had to be Greek for it to have a fraternity feel. Going to the basement was like going to our sorority or fraternity house.”
It was the threat of Andrews being torn down that made Samples realize she had the power to take action and make a difference.
“That's one of the ways I got started contributing to ‘restricted giving’ at Marietta,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine the campus with Andrews Hall torn down, so I participated in the fund to save that building.”
Recalling fondly the space being a true basement with a hole-in-the-wall feel with all of its small rooms, equipment and spots to hang out in, Samples says she and other graduates could not bear to give up their connection to the space and the comradery that was continually fortified while putting projects together within it.
While she spent a great deal of her time in the basement of Andrews, the value and importance of a college education was never lost on Samples or her classmates.
“We were all pretty ambitious and focused,” she says. “For us, during that time, we understood that after four years of college, you needed a job, and wanted a job that paid a lot of money. We were very focused on working. We were probably a bit more focused on getting jobs in the for-profit world compared to now where many graduates go into non-profit work.”
Samples said that during her time at Marietta, lots of companies recruited on campus. Even if they did not want to work for them, she recalls that everyone went to the Procter & Gamble interviews because they were tough and good practice for the companies they did want to be hired by.
While everyone interviewed with P&G, Samples says she legitimately wanted to work for the company. She must have done something to impress them in her interview, for she was fortunate enough to land a job with the company.
“Even if I didn’t want to be in sales for the rest of my life, I knew I would get excellent training if I worked for P&G for a couple of years,” she says.
She believes her coursework in Broadcast Communications, which provided the opportunity to present on-air in the radio and television stations, as well as having taken a lot of speech and English classes, set her up to be good in interviews, essentially a public speaking environment that required talking to someone she didn’t know.
Samples says the confidence she gained through her coursework and being on-air really helped her during all of her interviews.
“For a senior, I was sufficiently confident without being arrogant,” she says.
It was as early as her new-hire orientation that Samples began to consider giving back to Marietta.
“One of the things P&G shared was that lots of non-profits would be seeking contributions from us now that we had jobs, and they encouraged us to choose two or three causes that meant the most to us to support with our philanthropy. I remember talking with professors while still in college about the importance of giving back. I knew Marietta didn’t benefit from state funds, so it made sense to me to put Marietta in my top three for philanthropy,” she said.
It has been equal parts realizing what she herself was afforded because of alumni giving and seeing the impact her own giving has had that has prompted Samples to continue to support Marietta.
“I didn’t understand until many years later that though my parents saved up so that I could attend any school I wanted, what they paid didn’t cover the cost of attending Marietta,” she says. “Over time as I realized how much my contributions helped, in both a big and small way, it just seemed obvious that Marietta would continue to top my charitable giving list until my end comes. I just hope there will be some meaningful amount left over for the College!”
There have been two pivotal instances that have solidified Samples’ desire to give back to Marietta, two times she was shown that her contributions truly make a difference.
Recognizing her love for all of her English classes and that proficient English skills, especially writing, to critical thinking and creativity, are crucial for one’s success, Samples knew she wanted to give back to Marietta’s English Department.
Never did she imagine that a student impacted by her generosity would seek her out to thank her.
“One year, an English student that had gone on a trip, supported from funds taken from the endowment, came up to me during Strawberries and Crème to tell me how much it meant to go on the trip and how she wouldn’t have been able to go without donations like mine,” she says. “It nearly brought me to tears. She had combed through all these people to find me to thank me for something I do anyway. The English Department was the most meaningful place where I spent my time. It was where I really learned to be challenged as well as learn that I could accomplish so much. For her to take the time to find me and say thank you meant so much to me.”
The second defining moment for Samples was when then College President Jean Scott visited her in Indianapolis and asked her to be a part of the Board of Trustees.
After needing a crash course to explain what the Board is and does, Samples was still confused. From her perspective, she had been out of college for a while and hadn’t done anything too distinguishing. She couldn’t figure out why Scott had thought of and wanted her.
“There were a couple people on the Board who had worked with the Development or Admission office. They knew that my contributions while not significant in size, were consistent,” she says. “They recognized that and saw me as someone who cares about her alma mater, who understands the significance and importance of financial contributions. It was all proof of people watching, appreciating, and believing I could be someone that’s helpful to the Board of Trustees.”
Following her time at P&G, Samples had a decades-long successful career in marketing and brand management for companies like Stroh’s, Keebler and Jarden, using training from her P&G sales career nearly every day. She is recently retired from retail banking where she loved providing excellent customer service.
While some aspects of her professional outlook have been altered and updated, some things she learned at Marietta have remained steadfastly true for Samples throughout her career.
Though she thinks a Liberal Arts education is viewed with undue skepticism nowadays, that it is perceived as not having much of a career direction attached to it, she says she knows the education she received from Marietta taught her how to solve problems, an invaluable skill.
“It doesn’t matter where you go after college, whether in the professional workforce or in relationships with colleagues, if you demonstrate you can help solve problems, you will be a valued friend, employee, spouse and parent because life is full of problems,” she says. “If you have the confidence and insight to help people solve those, you can make a huge difference in the world. The critical thinking skills learned through a Liberal Arts education can give you the foundation to do great things in the world.”