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Get to know Gaye McGovern

November 14, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

To some, Gaye McGovern is simply their insurance agent - owner of Gaye McGovern Insurance Agency Inc. - whose office is just east of town, off Robinwood Drive.

To others, she's a mover and shaker in Hagerstown's business world.

To a very important somebody, she's a grandmother deeply interested in keeping up with the latest bike trick and school lesson via iChat.

Just who is Gaye McGovern?

A member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown, McGovern, 66, of Hagerstown, is involved in an array of community organizations and has served on the boards or advisory committees for more than 15 organizations.

In September, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce named McGovern, a former Chamber president, as business volunteer of the year.

She's also a member of the Hagerstown Rotary Club and is on the Washington County Hospital's quality control committee.

But there's more brimming beneath the surface. Here are five more things to know about Gaye McGovern.

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1. Her first name really isn't Gaye. It's Eugenia.

"But nobody calls me Eugenia," said McGovern, whose full name is Eugenia Gaye McGovern.

Eugenia is a family name, which McGovern insists is hard for people to pronounce. Gaye is also a family name - one that McGovern said is easier to say.

McGovern, the oldest of nine children, was the daughter of a Navy officer, which meant her family moved a lot when she was young. They eventually settled in Northern Virginia when her father took a job with the federal government.

McGovern married an Air Force man, William "Bill" McGovern, and they, too, traveled quite a bit. They settled in Hagerstown in 1987.

Just before that, they lived in Ohio. After her husband was assigned to the Pentagon, he made a 300-mile commute to the Washington, D.C., region. Eventually, Gaye McGovern also made the trek. She drove from Ohio to Hood College in Frederick, Md., to take law courses, bracing for a career change and the inevitable move to Maryland to be closer to where her husband was working.

The McGoverns have a daughter, Elizabeth Amy McGovern, a computer science professor who specializes in artificial intelligence at the University of Oklahoma. It should be noted that McGovern calls her daughter by her middle name, Amy.

2. If you know McGovern or have visited her office, you get the sense that she isn't a cat person, and have probably met Luna and Liesel, her two schnauzers.

"I have nothing against cats except that I'm very allergic to them," she said, "but I definitely like dogs, particularly schnauzers."

Luna is named for the little white moon around her beard, and Liesel is named after a character in "The Sound of Music."

McGovern says the character and the dog both have irrepressible happiness and lots of energy.

She and her husband have had schnauzers for 40 years.

"We just somehow fell into that," McGovern said. "Years and years ago, that's what Bill got. Then we got another one to keep that one company. And the rest is history."

3. People know McGovern the State Farm agent, McGovern the board member, or, perhaps, McGovern the former public school administrator. But in her college days at University of Pittsburgh, McGovern started out as a premed student.

She didn't end up going to medical school, though, which she said was common for women back in the early 1960s.

"We were told repeatedly by our professors, make room for a (male student) who will use his education," she said.

McGovern eventually earned a doctorate in educational administration and psychology from the University of California Los Angeles and says she doesn't have any regrets.

But there was another reason she didn't go to med school. McGovern said her mother passed away when McGovern was 20.

"I felt like I needed to get out and get to work and get busy being a grown up," she said. So during her senior year, she took all the education courses she needed to graduate and become a teacher.

4. McGovern was a superintendent for East Palestine City School District in East Palestine, Ohio, before she became an insurance agent in Hagerstown.

She worked for a State Farm agent while she attended the University of Pittsburgh. McGovern met her future husband in college and worked for his father, a State Farm agent, while still in school.

When McGovern established her Hagerstown office in 1987, she ended a 24-year career in public education. Throughout that career, she's been a teacher, principal, director of instruction, director of pupil personnel services and superintendent of schools.

McGovern said when the time came to move to Maryland, she was ready for a career change. She kicked around many ideas, but said being an insurance agent was a culmination of all her skill sets.

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