Everyone Listens When the Good Doctor Speaks
I walked into the Starbucks on Capital and , there was a group of women all in their sixties or seventies sitting at a table. I ordered my herbal tea and sat at the counter. I watched the women conversing and wondered: Which of them am I supposed to interview?
I decided to do a final scan before I walked over to figure out which of them was the woman I was scheduled to meet, and that’s when I saw her. She was wearing brown loafers, red socks, khaki pants, and a dark red half zip. Her short blonde hair pushed back, not a strand out of place. She stood confidently, shoulders open, a hip popped to the side as she steeped her tea and looked around, she was the leader of this pride. Everyone was in the palm of her hand, they just didn’t know it.
As she scanned the room our eyes met. This was my cue to walk towards her.
Her piercing blue eyes cut through me, I was intimidated, but I kept my composure. She stuck out her hand immediately, her grasp was firm and authoritative. I knew I was really going to like this lady.
Dr. Mary Ann Humphrey- began her career at PCC in 1973, as one of the first female 3-sport coaches, a position that came with minimum pay and minimum equipment. Since then, she has been an active participant, not just in the school, but also in the lives of her students.
“I know I can’t change everyone,” says Humphrey-, “but when you get the kids that want change, I mean really want it, you do everything you can for them. They’re what makes my job so worthwhile.”
Even after serving as the only full-time PE instructor for many years at Rock Creek, she was never offered the opportunity to be that department’s chair, a position that apparently you can’t get even with two master degrees and a doctorate in educational administration and curriculum, she never stopped caring for students.
During the time of her early years of PCC employment, Humphrey- was also a U.S. Army Reserve captain, on her way to becoming a major, until a faculty member at PCC (who had known for several years that she was gay—and was also a military reservist officer) revealed to her military authority, that she was in fact gay. This guy simply knew how to ‘get even’ and only needed to knock on the door of the “Good ’ Boys Officer’s Club” at her Reserve Center with his “helpful information” and after a couple of years of investigation, she was ousted, forced to resign her commission and nearly 9 ½ years of honorable service. Ironically, her last unit position held was that of the Unit’s Equal Opportunity-Affirmative Action Officer.
This hit Dr. Humphrey- hard.
“When I was in college, I was seen kissing a girl at my house. Just one kiss, which was accidentally seen by my housemate, as she walked through the front door. It spread like wildfire. After that, I could feel all eyes on me, and when people huddled and whispered, I felt they were whispering about me. It was alienating, but no doubt it made me stronger, and I got through it. After college I felt as if that was behind me. But to go from whispers on a college campus in the mid-sixties, to being forced to resign from my long-held military reserve position, in the mid-eighties, simply for being me? It was devastating. I was being attacked for being myself, and harming no one. I sought out therapy, because causing bodily harm to the guy who turned me in wasn’t an option.”
And Humphrey- did just that. Her psychiatrist told her to do what any good psychiatrist would tell you to do in a time of anguish and hurt: “Write about it.”
And why not? She had already published a book on swimming pool water games, titled Waterplay, that she used while teaching at Sylvania! And not long after considering the prospect of this idea, Humphrey- arrived at her next appointment with a fully typed out book proposal. Her psychiatrist was in complete shock.
“What? But you told me to write about it,” said Humphrey-.
“Yeah, but no one takes my advice!” retorted her psychiatrist.
Then, in October 1990, Dr. Humphrey- released her book: My Country, My Right to Serve, which is considered a historic, cornerstone book regarding gays in the military. The book required Humphrey- to interview over 300, both active and inactive, veterans from World War II and forward, about their experiences with being gay and in the military. Of those 300, Humphrey- chose 42. Those 42 stories gained her national attention, and won several awards that would make her a catalyst for human rights organizations concerned with advocating for and representing members of the LGBTQ community.
Along the way, Humphrey- was interviewed for many local and national newspapers and magazines. It was a catalyst for becoming the co-host of for over 3 years, and 150+ shows, which one of the first gay television program seen in several cities throughout the US. In 2012, she was chosen by Portland’s Q-Center, as one of their first celebrated pioneer, queer heroes, and featured in PQ (Proud Queer) monthly as “Queer Hero of the Month” for being a co-founder of the military activist group, Veterans for Human Rights.
In the article, they noted that she has carried the American Flag in the gay military Color Guard for nearly 20 years, to start Portland’s Gay Pride Parade, and then by the end of the interview we were cracking jokes and showing each other our tattoos. We had spent a little over three hours talking and I felt as if I could talk for many more. “You know, I never get tired? Some people say they get more tired as they get older and I have always felt the same.”
This is evident not only in her personality, but in her hobbies, as well. In her spare time, Humphrey- likes refurbishing vintage cars, collects Mickey Mouse memorabilia, makes her own custom jewelry, and spends quality time with her beautiful wife of over 32 years, Debra Humphrey-, their two sons, and their two precious pups.
“If you don’t set the pace, you get left in the dust with everyone else. I feel what really drives me is that I’ve never wanted to be left in the dust—I want to be front and center where all the change happens. But you never know which way the wind is going to blow. Even if you’re leading the pack, you can still get a big ’ pile of dust right in your face. And trust me it has happened to me a fair share of times, but you brush it off and keep going.”
Dr. Humphrey- is a prime example of the kind of teacher students value at PCC. She goes above and beyond for those who are willing to learn and be taught, and truly loves her job. She possesses the incredible gift of helping students find the courage they need to get through not only college, but life itself. It was an honor to get to know her, and if you see her around any of the campuses, be sure to give her a handshake, because she really knows how to give good ones.