Marian Hopkins, 93, of Winona, Minnesota passed away on October 17, 2023. She was preceded in death by her husband of 67 years, Richard (Dick) Hopkins in 2021. She is survived by her children: Barry (Lisa) Hopkins of Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin and Jenny Hopkins of Winona, Minnesota.
Marian was born in Detroit, Michigan on August 30, 1930, to Cassie (Bielawski) and Oscar Opel. She attended schools in Detroit and Fraser, Michigan graduating in 1948 as valedictorian of her high school class. She received a scholarship to study at Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University) in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where she majored in Spanish and Education and minored in Latin and English, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1952 - the first person in her family to attend college. While at college, she met Richard Hopkins who would become her husband in 1954. She obtained her master's degree in Classical Studies (Latin) from the University of Michigan in 1959 through several summers of studying in Ann Arbor. Many years later, she did extensive Ph.D. coursework in Adult Education, Women's Studies, and International Education at the University of Minnesota.
After college, Marian taught Latin, Spanish, and English at various high schools in Michigan. She credited her minor in Latin as the ticket to every teaching job she ever had, including her absolute favorite: a full-time Latin teaching position at Birmingham High School (Michigan) where she taught for three years. She left that job in 1957 to follow her husband to Winona after he was hired by Winona State Normal School (now Winona State University). Although reluctant at first to come to Winona, she grew to love this city and fiercely promoted it as a wonderful place to live. She was especially happy to witness Winona's transformation into a thriving arts center.
After her children started elementary school, Marian taught Latin at Cotter High School for one year. In 1973, she accepted a position at Winona State University as a non-teaching faculty member in the External Studies Program (later known as Regional Campus and eventually Adult and Continuing Education), where she worked for 18 years until her retirement in 1991. Her female colleagues remember Marian as someone who welcomed them when they were new to the Winona campus and who supported them at a time when the university culture wasn't always affirming of women in academia.
Marian believed that successful women needed to help younger women climb the career ladder. She also believed in supporting women-owned businesses and would encourage other people to do the same. She was a member of many organizations that promoted women and girls, including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Women in Business, Women in Chamber of Commerce, the River Trails Girl Scout Council, League of Women Voters, Winona's YWCA (former board member), and the Women's Resource Center (now the Advocacy Center of Winona). In addition, she was a member of the Friendship Center Activity Council, donating her time and effort to help with early accreditation studies. She volunteered with the Friends of Will (Great River Shakespeare Festival) and contributed financially to the Winona Polish Museum, Winona History Center (new addition), new Guthrie Theatre building in Minneapolis, and many theatres in the region.
Marian always told her children that she didn't want to be remembered for her cooking, but for her intelligent ideas instead! Although she was a good cook, Marian took a firm stand against spending too much time in the kitchen when she could be reading a book instead. She was a voracious reader throughout her whole life, making good use of the public library, as well as supporting local independent bookstores. At one time she was a concurrent member in four separate book clubs in Winona and prided herself on always reading the entire book before each meeting (as well as making notes and researching the author ahead of time). She was also a founding member of the Great River Collegium that met in the spring every year to study the plays that would be performed during the Great River Shakespeare Festival.
With a low tolerance for unorganized writing and rambling thoughts, Marian became the "go to" person for editing and an authority on grammar and style. She wrote and edited articles for the newsletters of organizations she belonged to, synthesizing the contributions of various writers into a final piece that sounded as if it had been written by a single author. She also taught memoir writing at the Winona Friendship Center and wrote many vignettes of her own life.
A summer of Spanish study in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico between her junior and senior years in college in 1951 was a life-changing event for Marian. She skimped and saved to pay for her expenses, including her bus ticket from Michigan to Mexico. She skipped so many meals during this time that she lost weight before leaving on that trip. While in Saltillo, she took classes that would count toward her major, and she studied Spanish conversation with a private tutor every afternoon. This adventure in Mexico sparked a love of travel that Marian would pursue throughout her adult life.
Marian's travels took her to Europe in 1980, Chile in 1981, and Scandinavia in 1982 - all as a chaperone on Girl Scout trips. Her daughter, who lived in several different countries over the years, provided a good excuse to visit Japan in 1989, Egypt in 1991 and 1992, and Qatar in 2005. Marian returned to Europe several times, even convincing her husband to accompany her on some of those trips: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. In addition, Marian travelled throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico on family vacations, as well as on trips to attend professional conferences.
When Marian returned from her summer in Mexico in 1951, she had an advanced case of rheumatic fever, and was forced to miss several weeks of classes at the beginning of her senior year of college while she was treated in the hospital. (The rheumatic fever caused a heart murmur that affected her health in later years.) Her family's financial situation was so precarious that they had to choose between paying the medical bills or paying Marian's room and board at college. Although the bills were all paid eventually, Marian never forgot the pain of being in such dire financial need, and resolved to help others if she had money to spare in the future.
When the Great River Shakespeare Festival came to Winona, Marian decided to make good on this promise to herself by supporting "up and coming" actors in the Actors' Apprenticeship Program (now known as the Actors' Professional Training Program). For over a dozen years, countless talented apprentice actors received monetary support from Marian and became her friend. Rather than just signing a check, Marian enjoyed getting to know these actors: treating them to lunch on their days off, emailing them after they left Winona, and attending their performances in the region as they continued to develop their acting. Marian never lost sight of the fact that she had struggled financially herself when she was their age. She hoped that her monetary contributions would help these young talented people get a solid start in their careers.
Her own children also benefited from Marian's desire to support young people. As they were starting their adult lives, both Barry and Jenny appreciated her advice to, "Follow your bliss," - an attitude that made it much easier to do whatever they felt inspired to do, even if their "bliss" took them far away from home for long periods of time. For this and so much more, both children are grateful to their loving Mom, certain that not a day will pass without them missing her terribly.
A Celebration of Life for Marian will be held on Monday, October 30th, 2023, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Hoff Celebration of Life Center, 3480 Service Drive in Winona.
In lieu of flowers and in Marian's memory, please consider a donation to one of the following: the Actors' Professional Training Program of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona; the Winona branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) women's scholarship fund; or the Manitowish Waters Music in the Park - a music festival started in 2008 by her son, Barry and his wife Lisa, and fully supported throughout the years by Marian who was so proud of their work to establish and grow this festival. https://www.mwmusicinthepark.com/