Mary Ellen Isensee, BA ’63

Major: Sociology

Former Member, CHC Advisory Council
Court Appointed Special Advocate
Retired School Counselor

Mary Ellen Isensee

When I arrived at the UO as a freshman, the Clark Honors College was in its infancy, so I had few preconceptions of what was in store for me as an honors college student. Upon graduation, I realized that the CHC had been the frosting on my academic cake. It had challenged me and stretched my ability to think in ways I could not have imagined. So, I was thrilled to be asked to be on the CHC Advisory Council when it was established.

Similarly, after a thirty-year career as a junior high counselor and teacher, I entered retirement with eagerness, some discomfort, and only the barest outline of what retirement would look like. I chose to become a court appointed special advocate (CASA) in Clackamas County near Portland, Oregon. A CASA works as a link between a child who is no longer safe in the care of his or her parents and the judicial system, which takes over wardship. As one might imagine, every child has unique needs. Consequently, I am always exploring, investigating, and learning as I work with these very vulnerable children and teenagers. My work as a CASA has once again challenged and stretched me, and allowed me to use old skills in new ways, and is the frosting on my retirement cake.

I have a little difficulty thinking of my work with the CHC Advisory Board and CASA as “giving back.” To me, I’m the lucky one who has had the opportunity to sit down at life’s dinner table and eat two desserts.