Marjory Ridler Retires from CCS after 25 years

Interview by Ken Gottry

She signs her art work M Stubbington Ridler, but wants to be called Marjory. However, for 25 years her CCS art students simply called her friend and mentor. Marjory retired this past June after years of “finding something rewarding every day” as art teacher at CCS.

She was born March 30, 1947 at 9:08 pm in the Mary McClellan Hospital. In 1924 her father, Ted, and her Uncle, Dick, were one of the first sets of twins ever born in the new hospital. Her grandmother, Mary, was nanny to the McClellan children, both here at Northwood on North Union Street and at their estate in England. A strong woman, Mary had a deep influence on Marjory. The Robertson (Elizabeth, mother) side of her family settled in the Cambridge Valley in 1793, so her roots are deep in Washington County soil.

Marjory’s childhood was spent with friends such as Suzanne Gottry, Christine McInerney, Jean Robertson, Cindy Dunn, Margaret Frazier, and Patsy Roy. That must have been some Brownie troop gathering! The gang remains close and recently celebrated their 40th CCS reunion together at Christine’s camp on Hedges Lake.

Marjory’s CCS elementary teachers, such as Nina Watkins, were loving and caring. The stability of life in Cambridge is evidenced by the fact that Marjory taught the great grandchildren of her first grade teacher, Helen “Green Door” Buckley. Marjory’s junior high teacher, Rob Hayden, taught her that teachers can have a sense of humor and still be effective educators.

Marjory remembers John Herbert trying and trying to help her conquer math though not always successfully. Marjory was active in Peter Proud’s band, playing the clarinet and oboe. Dick Dawson’s art class allowed her to experiment but drawing was always her thing. She remembers the realization in 4th grade that she had a talent in drawing that would continue on to be a life skill and joy.

Marjory recalls her one and only detention. All the girls in the CCS junior class took a day off to shop for prom dresses. While others feigned illness as an excuse, Marjory told the truth and spent an afternoon in detention hall as a result.

It seems that every 8th grader who has passed through CCS remembers with awe the senior class ahead of them: the beautiful girls, the talented musicians, and the athletic boys.  Marjory remembers a state of hero worship as the 1960’s boys’ basketball team defeated Voorheesville in a thrilling sectional game.

Upon graduation from CCS in 1965, Marjory attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. She graduated with an AAS degree in apparel design. She married a fashion photographer who also graduated from FIT and they had two sons: Mark and Ben. After 4 years in Brooklyn, Marjory and the boys moved to Cambridge much to the elation of her mother and grandmother.

Upon her return to Cambridge, Marjory soon realized she wanted to continue her education. So in 1972 off she went to Plattsburgh with a preschooler, a kindergartener, and the support and love of her family. In 1974 Marjory graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with honors receiving a BA in Studio Art/Painting and Drawing.

As she struggled to start her career, she was a bartender, a substitute teacher, and a manager in the Fashion Shop in Plattsburgh. She displayed her work at several art shows and often bartered for needed items. Her favorite trade was swapping one of her paintings for a gorgeous antique table that still adorns her home.

In 1980, Marjory moved back to Cambridge. She was a substitute teacher and worked in the Casual Corner store. In 1982 she began the graduate program at St Rose so she could become a full-time teacher.

Her student teaching in Hoosick Falls was monitored by Dr Peter Smith, a man who profoundly shaped her approach to teaching. Dr. Smith spearheaded the Grandma Moses painting project at Hoosick Falls Central School having his 4th graders create primitive paintings like those of Anna Mary Robertson Moses.

In 1984 Marjory was hired by CCS as elementary art teacher with one high school class in painting and drawing. She started the 4th grade Grandma Moses Project, one of her proudest accomplishments at CCS. She also worked on a puppet project with the 3rd grade classes, following storybook characters. The young students learned that “art through planning and vision” means an art project doesn’t have to be completed within a single 40 minute class period. Many of the students she’s taught over the years proudly talk about their 4th grade primitive painting that hangs on the wall or the puppet that adorns a shelf in their home.

Marjory has been involved in the VOSCA (Volunteers to South Carolina) program since its inception in 1990 by Robert Cheney. Each spring while others enjoy their week off from school, Marjory accompanies Mr. Cheney and 20 students to South Carolina where, under the tutelage of skilled carpenters, they repair and rehabilitate housing.

Marjory has helped her students create portfolios of their art work. Each November over 25 colleges convene at Portfolio Day at Sage College in Albany. This, plus field trips to New York City museums and SoHo, provide a rewarding cultural glimpse into the world of art that will spark some students to go on to an art school.

Each year the art show at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, for high school students only, attracts over 1200 submissions from area schools with the top 100 being chosen for display. This past spring works from students representing 25 different schools were chosen with CCS garnering 8 of those places. The BOCES magazine Talent Unlimited is also a venue where Cambridge art students are represented each year. Both prestigious events are goals of the art department for student representation.

Marjory enjoys working with all ranges of students from special education to valedictorians. She thrills when a student finds just the right shade of green for her landscape after searching diligently for the correct ratio of yellow to blue; or when a student says “I get it!”. Marjory has an extensive photo record of student work from K-12 from 1984 to 2009, and she concludes that it is a joyful record of work.

Some of the greatest triumphs have been students who get into the college of their first choice like Deep Springs, RISD, FIT, RIT, Bowdoin, and New York’s SUNY System for the Arts.

The first thing Marjory plans to do following retirement is a take a long, deep breath. She’s always loved to travel so she’ll continue to take trips to Scarborough, Portland, and Acadia Maine as well as Prince Edward Islands. She’ll also take a leisurely drive along the Skyline Drive overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, pausing often to take photos. A longer term goal is to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador and also to the British Isles and Europe.

Marjory describes her art room as a place to create, a time that is therapeutic for some. It is a safe haven for her students, a place to temporarily escape from all the burdens in their everyday life.  Even as Marjory headed out the door for the last time, she reminded her students “I’m just down the street”.  Yes, she’s retiring but she’ll never stop being a teacher and a friend to her students.

One of Marjory’s former students, Ralph Herrington, was hired to take her vacated position. Ralph was in one of Marjory’s first painting and drawing classes over 20 years ago. Marjory is thrilled to have a former student come back to work at Cambridge.

Marjory’s retirement lasted about two months since in August Hoosick Falls Central School called her to work as a long-term substitute art teacher. Talk about coming full circle back to her student teaching days.

A grateful school and a thankful community wish Marjory well. She has left a lasting impression on the lives of the next generation.



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