Instead of choosing to retire after 46 years of working as a legal secretary, Marjorie Banker, 84, is taking classes at the Alexandria branch of Northern Virginia Community College to earn a degree to become a paralegal. She is looking forward to challenging assignments, and has no intention of slowing down or — even worse — taking days off.
Banker's hard work is not lost on others. Her neighbor and friend, Alberta Stokes, praised Banker saying, "I have raised highly successful and intelligent daughters, mostly on my own, but I don't even compare that to what Marj has done. She is the most accomplished person I know."
What type of work did you do prior to deciding to take these classes?
I worked for attorneys as a secretary and I did all kinds of things. I'd take summons and complaints, and then the attorneys would take it from there. I did some work on estates too, and I liked that very much.
What changes have you noticed within the legal system?
I started with an old typewriter and I know I couldn't use that today; I imagine IBM bought those all up. The biggest changes are in the technology. The computer and the Internet make everything very different.
Why did you decide to go back to school at this point in your life?
When I finish these classes I hope to get a job as a paralegal; they have much more responsibility. They go with the attorney and if the attorney's absent, the paralegal can actually speak for them. Also, I just need something to do and someone to converse with whose interested in the same things I am.
What type of education had you received prior to these college courses?
I took a couple of classes at University of Rochester, which is where I used to live. I'd like to take government here, but I need to finish my required classes before I start electives.
What type of interaction do you have with your fellow classmates?
I'm friendly with a few, but I change classes every six months. I'm very grateful for the young people who live in the area and give me rides back at night. Sometimes they'll say I'm crazy for wanting to work for lawyers, but I tell them I've done it for 46 years! Then they go, "Oh, so you know!"
How do your professors respond to you?
They are excellent, just excellent. The director of the paralegal program — who has her J.D. — she thinks I'm just here for the fun of it, but she's wonderful.
In what ways do you expect this degree to affect your current lifestyle?
It won't change too much, it will just give me an outlet to do more in an environment that I'm familiar with. Sure, I want a job, but I'll be careful what I take. I don't want to work half-days; I'd rather work three full days than five half-days. That way, you can be much more productive and you have the continuity of thought.
What was the last good movie you saw?
Probably the one about the ship that went down, "Titanic." I really liked that one. I have heard stories all my life about that ship. I don't see a lot of movies; the last one I saw before that was "On Golden Pond."
What do you consider to be your all-time favorite book?
There was one I just read that I liked very, very much. It was "Alexander Hamilton," by Ron Chernow. It gives you a very good idea of what the Revolution was really like. I never dreamed he (Hamilton) was such a chaser! He was like Bill Clinton!
What are your interests and hobbies?
I love music, but I can't afford to go to concerts here too much! I still follow the animal stories on TV. There was a story on recently about a doctor who made legs for a dog. That was very interesting.
What do you like the most about living in Alexandria?
Well, everything's convenient. You can usually get around without a car...although I can't get to Wegmans without a car, but I rent one from time to time. There are a lot of nice stores here.
What will your goals be once you've completed your course-work?
I hope to keep working until I drop! If seniors want to work, they should be allowed to, but they should be there as much as they can. They shouldn't just take days off because they feel like they've worked their whole lives.