College for Jones Sangster a place to better herself
By C.J. CHARLES COLLINS and ALYSSA LENHOFF
Mary Sangster answered the phone after the second ring and asked the caller to repeat where she was from three times.
“I can hardly believe it,” she said. “I haven’t heard from anyone from my college since I graduated from there a long, long time ago.”
“It is so nice to be remembered,” said the soft-spoken 83-year-old.
Sangster graduated from the former Youngstown College in 1950 with a degree in education and significant coursework in classical piano. She has many fond memories of her four years at Youngstown.
After all, she said, Youngstown College is where she gained the education to launch her career as an instructor of classical piano – a career that allowed her to combine her two great passions, music and teaching.
Sangster, who was born in Campbell, graduated from East High School when she was 16 and from Youngstown College when she was 20.
She’s modest when explaining why she accelerated so quickly. “It wasn’t that I was that smart. I really had to work,” she said.
Although neither of her parents attended college, Sangster said her mother and father were avid readers and adamant that their three children become well-educated.
Sangster’s brother and sister also graduated high school at 16. “At that time, if you earned good grades, they skipped you,” she said.
Although she was young, Sangster said entering Youngstown College never frightened her from an academic standpoint. She felt prepared. Also, she said segregation wasn’t that big of an impediment. “I got through it,” she said. “I did what I had to do.”
For Sangster, college was not about socialization. The goal was to gain knowledge to become a smarter, better person.
When Sangster, then Mary Oliver Jones, first entered Youngstown College in 1946, her declared major was classical piano. By her second year, that changed.
“At that time, there was a shortage of elementary school teachers and they gave each of us an aptitude test. They told me I had an aptitude for teaching and so the second year, I started studying elementary education,” she said.
After graduating, Sangster moved to California where she taught for 30 years. Trying to remember which grades she taught, she laughed and said that it might be easier to just say that there are no elementary grades she has not taught.
In addition to teaching, she opened a music studio. “I loved working with children,” she said.
She and Les, her husband of 45 years, have a son, L. Darryl, but no grandchildren. “Unfortunately,” she said.
Although her brother and sister have died, she has other living relatives and still returns to Ohio occasionally.
Her schedule is still quite demanding. She gives piano lessons and works out every day of the week, except for Sundays.