Have you ever entered Main Room 238, looked up at the plaque over the door and wondered just who was Jane Marilley ’44 for whom the computer classroom is named? This is her story — another great Trinity Woman in History.
So many Trinity Women dream of starting their own business. Just three years after her graduation in the Class of 1944, Jane Marilley did just that. With a few hundred dollars — a lot in those post-war days — Jane founded the company that became a multi-million dollar event planning and management business known as Courtesy Associates. Born as a telephone answering service for corporations before the age of voicemail and automatic call forwarding to cell phones, Courtesy Associates quickly became a Washington establishment, and Jane Marilley was hailed as an innovative business leader. She was one of the first women to serve on the board of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the regional business association, and the first woman on many boards, and was one of the founders of the National Children’s Choir. She earned a posthumous place in the Washington Business Hall of Fame.
Jane Marilley was ahead of her time in many ways. After graduation, she worked for McGraw-Hill Publishing and then as a public relations staffer from the Aerospace Industries Association. Her connection with Aerospace was not just coincidental — she was also training to be a pilot. According to a 2007 interview in the Trinity Magazine with her cousin Marjorie Marilley Ransom ’59 (another great story — she had a long and fascinating diplomatic career), Jane Marilley wanted to go into the foreign service, but her father objected and he gave her flying lessons instead. A story in the September 1947 issue of Flying Magazine recounts how Jane was instrumental in planning and securing permits for her flight instructors to take a round-the-world flight, one of the earliest projects of her company.
Jane’s connection with aerospace intersected again in a major way with Courtesy Associates in 1969 when the firm managed a special dinner at the Omni Shoreham hailing the Apollo 11 crew back on earth just one month after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
In its heyday, Courtesy Associates (now a subsidiary of SmithBucklin) was one of the largest employers of women in the Washington region. In the 1960’s Jane also created a subsidiary business known as Executive Offices, an early prototype of the concierge office suite concept through which business executives from out of town could rent fully furnished and staffed offices on a temporary basis.
Jane Marilley died in 1976, succeeded by her long-time associate and equally notable business leader, the late Louise Lynch. Louise stewarded Jane’s legacy through the Marilley Foundation, when the time came to wind-down the foundation, with the help of the late John Tydings who was then president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and a Trinity trustee, Louise determined that the best way to honor Jane was to create a modern learning environment for future business leaders at Trinity — hence, the creation of the Marilley Classroom in 1997, the first computer classroom at Trinity. We are grateful to Jane Marilley for her great legacy at Trinity.
Women’s History Month is really every single day at Trinity. For 120 years, Trinity has educated women to be leaders in business, education, politics, the arts, communities, cities, states and nations around the world. I am featuring some of the great women of Trinity’s history, but even as I write new generations of women leaders are preparing to continue the legacy far into the future. These stories help to inspire, to instigate, and to remind us that when women receive a great education, we can truly change the world!