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Mary Ellen Bates ’43

Mary Ellen Bates ’43, February 14, 2013, in Pensacola, Florida. A native of Vancouver, Washington, Mary earned a BA from Reed in sociology and joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC) in the enlisted ranks. “My objective in joining the WAC was to do whatever I could, whenever I could, and do it well.” Rather than take a desk job, Mary chose to get close to the conflict and was sent to officers’ training school. She was stationed with the Far East Air Force, serving in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. After being discharged in 1948, she earned an EdM in social sciences from Smith College and enrolled at the University of Washington law school. Barely seated in the classroom, she was recalled into military service. In the highly decorated military career that ensued, Mary undertook many challenges, including commanding squadrons for the Women’s Air Force and serving as an exchange officer with the Royal Air Force in England and as an administrative office and inspector general in France. In 1962, she received the uncommon distinction of being named honorary submariner with the U.S. Navy. She was a deputy base commander in Kansas and an executive officer in Korea and in Washington, finally retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1973. Back home in Vancouver before a final move to Florida, Mary worked as a member of the city’s planning commission and volunteered with the Episcopal church and for the YWCA battered and destitute women’s shelter. She also was a member and president of Atheneum, an independent study group. “I should encourage young people to go into any profession in which they have an interest and can take pride, and in which they can serve society,” Mary stated. “I think we have an obligation to our fellow man—I really do.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2013

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