Once a teacher, she's remained an educator

B. Marie Byers

B. Marie Byers

April 29, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

To say that B. Marie Byers stays busy is an understatement.

By 9:30 on a recent spring morning, she'd already been in great demand.

"I had five phone calls before I left the house," she said, settling into a chair at Discovery Station, an interactive learning center in downtown Hagerstown where she serves as president and chief executive officer.

At noon, she planned to switch hats for a meeting at the local YMCA. As chairman of the Washington County Council of Physical Fitness, she's helping to develop a 10-month plan for improved eating and motion.

At 72, Byers has left her fingerprints on civic and charitable organizations all over Washington County - nearly two dozen in all - and is still active in many of them, some of which she helped to found.


Mainly, she's left her imprint on the county's children.

An elementary school teacher for six years, Byers went on to serve for 30 years on the Washington County Board of Education, ultimately as its first woman president. When she left the board at the end of 2000, then-board member Doris J. Nipps told her she'd be missed.

"Oh, I will be around," Byers replied.

Another understatement.

When Nipps left the board two years later to become a Washington County Commissioner, Byers was chosen to head the search committee for a new board member to complete Nipps' term.

That was just one of many times Byers has stepped up to the plate where learning opportunities were concerned. Much of her community involvement has been devoted to education.

From her past service on the boards of the Washington County Free Library and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra to serving on state and national education panels, Byers is always on the lookout for ways to enhance learning.

Discovery Station currently occupies most of her time. Long before the center opened, Byers turned down a request to lead fundraising for the proposed project - only to become president of its board, and consequently, spend time raising funds.

"When you see an opportunity or maybe a challenge," she says, "you make it doable." At Discovery Station, she added, "we've opened a door to a wholesome place, a family place, a friendly place."

She's driven by a philosophy of finding "how you can best use time in your life - in every moment, there's something you can be doing."

She's also inspired by the beneficiaries. "You don't do it for your own children; you do it for all children."

Key to getting projects such as Discovery Station, Destination Imagination and ot hers off the ground has been her ability to network for partnerships, which she describes as "finding a match with a fellow citizen who has the same passion that you have."

All her activity has garnered recognition from agencies such as the Hagerstown Business & Professional Women's Club, the Washington County Commission for Women, Women at the Table and the local and national PTA.

But after decades of service and all that recognition, she shows no signs of slowing down.

"There's still so much to learn," she said.


Name: B. Marie Byers

Hometown: Hagerstown

Occupation: "Lifetime educator"

What was your proudest moment: "On the (school) board, the graduations; seeing the faces of young learners who were ready for their next step - and knowing they were prepared."

Whom do you most admire, and why?: "My mother was the unpaid commissioner of Girl Scouts in this area. ... My mother died when I was 14. But I grew up under the guidance of a mother who died early, and my dad."

What was the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "My mom and dad always said 'do your best.'"

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: For Discovery Station to have its own building. It now rents the Nicodemus building on the corner of West Washington Street and Summit Avenue. She also would like it to have an endowment.

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