Rosemary English Yoakum


Honored By

Honored by: John M. Yoakum
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

Rosemary English's father died in the influenza pandemic of 1918. Living with her older sister, mother, and grandmother, it was usual to see working women around the house. As a student, she was unusually bright and hard working. In fact, she loved school. Her dream was to go to the University of Minnesota and become a librarian. Financial limitations forced her to work her way through the teacher's college the across the street from where she was born and raised in Mankato, MN.

She then taught English for two years with the goal of earning enough money to return to graduate school for a Master's Degree. When she was ready, in the 1940-41 school year, she signed a teaching contract in Miami, AZ while attending classes at the University of Arizona. The commute was 90 miles each way on two-lane roads. (It looked like a
shorter distance on her map in Minnesota.) The next year, she became a full time student and completed her Master's in English.

Her future husband proposed to her in April 1942. This presented two problems. First, she postponed her marriage until she completed her degree requirements. The second problem was that women could not teach once they were married, by standard contractual language used on all contracts at the time. So she gave up her life as a teacher to become
the wife of a military pilot. She continued taking college courses through her many travels, including stays in Germany and Japan. Sixteen years later, she returned to Tucson where she took classes and resumed her teaching career. Baby boomers were now in schools, and the resulting teacher shortage meant married women were now permitted to teach.

She completed her second Master's Degree in 1967, as a Reading Specialist, and continued teaching while raising a family.

Her degree from the UA in 1942, then, became the first of eight UA degrees earned by her family. The last, and eighth, was earned by her youngest grandson in 1992, 50 years later. Those same family members hold five additional college degrees from other institutions.

Submitted by her son, John M. Yoakum