After Margaret (Donahue) Jabar ’45 graduated from Waterville High School, she decided to enroll at Thomas College – known then as Thomas Business College and located on Main Street in Waterville, three floors above the F.W. Woolworth Company department store.
“Thomas was not fancy,” she recalls from her Waterville home. “It was just a single classroom above a store. It was not a big deal to go to Thomas back then.”
With many women deciding to study shorthand, Margaret, affectionately known as “Marge,” wanted nothing to do with it. In high school she had taken a bookkeeping course and was delighted to study it in more depth at Thomas.
“Thomas was not much when you talk about colleges that all my friends went to, but it was exactly what I needed,” she says.
While Marge studied at Thomas, she worked full-time at LaVerdiere’s Drug Store in Waterville – paying her own way to earn her degree.
“I was one of the only women studying bookkeeping,” says Marge, who explains that her experience at Thomas was not among classmates but taught one-to-one by a teacher. John Thomas was the President at the time – and Marge’s teacher. She worked diligently to impress him with her dedication to learning the trade.
“John Thomas did a heck of a job helping people like me get an education,” she says.
After Thomas, Marge went on to work as a bookkeeper at Donald Smith Company, which owned various apartment buildings in the area. She worked in securities for a while, and eventually became the financial principal for the company. Marge lived in Boston, MA, from 1952-1955 with her husband John while he went to law school.
“It was a big responsibility, and it was something that I worked very hard to do,” notes Marge of her role as financial principal. “I really loved it, and I worked my rear off to be the best there was for our small company. I made a great living.”
And for Marge, it all began at Thomas. “Thomas created my life’s work, and I made good money,” she reflects. “I was happy, too. I was doing what I liked, and I was confident I could do the best that I could do. I was always willing to learn more.”
Years later, Marge notes that the city of Waterville is bigger and fancier now, just like Thomas. She has built a career and a family filled with six children, 17 grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren, with one more on the way.
When asked what Marge is most thankful for in life, she says, “I knew that I could always make a living. I knew I could always get a job.”
Seventy-five years after graduating from Thomas, Marge says this when reflecting on everything she has built: “I had a good life. I was lucky. And I really thank Thomas. I thank them because they gave me my livelihood.”
*This story was originally published in the Fall 2020 Thomas Magazine & Annual Report.