Meet Don and Marcie Leach, supporters of the USF Scholarship and School of Nursing and Health Professions. For so many alumni, USF was more than just the place they received a college degree — it was an experience that changed their lives forever. Here is the story of two Discovery alumni who fell in love at USF and built a life shaped by the values of their Jesuit education.
Marcie Noltner ’65 spent her childhood in Portland, Oregon. Her parents passed away when she was a teenager and she moved to Washington D.C. with her godparents, and then to San Francisco where she enrolled in high school and quickly became a National Merit scholar. With three choices for college — Stanford, UC Berkeley, and USF — Marcie chose a Catholic education and to work with the Sisters of Mercy in the USF nursing program. She immersed herself in campus life, participating with the College Players, the Foghorn, the Hawaiian Club, and the Latin Club.
Don Leach ’65, E ’66 was born into an Irish family in Salinas, and by his freshman year of high school he had decided to join the seminary. He ended up leaving the seminary and transferring to USF to complete his degree. While Don says that it was a financial hardship at the time, he fondly recalls that USF “took care of their own.” There was “never any question that I would graduate because of the loans (and) support that I got,” he says. Not long after arriving at USF, Don realized he was not meant to be a priest. Instead, he says, “God sent me to be a teacher and he sent me to be taught by the Jesuits. They completely shaped me.”
Although Don and Marcie were at USF at the same time and actually had one class together, they did not meet until they were set up on a blind date 3,000 miles away during the summer of 1964. Marcie was living in New York City with a friend, working as a nurse aide for New York University during the World's Fair. Don had traveled to New York with his friend, John, who
told him, “there were two USF nurses living there and maybe they’d put (them) up” as Marcie was living in a co-ed dorm at NYC. John asked Marcie’s friend out on a date and she agreed but only if she could bring Marcie along as well. John obliged and brought along Don. The two talked for hours and Don says he knew that night that he and Marcie “had a different connection.” They married in 1965 during Marcie’s senior year at USF.
Following graduation, Marcie worked at St. Mary’s Hospital until she received her R.N. and moved on to Kaiser. She worked as a nurse for 38 years, dedicating her professional life to caring for others. Marcie always felt confident throughout her career as a nurse and she attributes that to her USF education. “I learned to see the whole person,” she says. “It was all about service—the whole idea of service being an important part of what we did. As my Aunt Daisy used to say, ‘Service is the rent that we pay for our space upon this earth.’ USF really embodied that philosophy.”
Don taught in San Francisco for 37 years and credits his USF education with helping him succeed as an educator. “I learned a certain sense of freedom of thought and action at USF and I was complimented a lot as a teacher for thinking outside the box and for taking initiative,” Don says. USF changed Don’s process of thinking and decision-making by teaching him “the Jesuit idea of informed conscience,” the idea “that decisions need to be informed, thought through, considered, and brought to other people.” Don created the Advanced Placement program in psychology at George Washington High School and oversaw it until he retired in 2003.
In retirement, both Don and Marcie have remained active in providing service to others in their community. They taught Marriage Encounter on weekends and Marriage Preparation courses at St. Anselm Parish in Ross for years. Don also taught a semester at USF, and he continues to aid the psychology program, even while teaching Advanced Placement workshops in psychology throughout the country. Meanwhile, Marcie is an active substitute school nurse at San Domenico in San Anselmo where the couple’s granddaughter attends school. She is still doing volunteer vision, hearing, and scoliosis screenings at San Domenico and Ross schools. Additionally, both Marcie and Don are very active in the Gym Mass at St. Anselm.
Marcie describes her commitment to service by saying, “It’s just what I do. I look for a balance. For us, it really is life-giving to give to others. We tend to get each other into things, but then we support each other through it,” she says as she smiles at Don. “We are given gifts, put here for a reason, and have a chance to use those gifts,” Don adds. “Any kind of great giving is a great receiving.” Perhaps one of the most important lessons that Marcie and Don learned at USF is that, as Don says, “your work is never complete. You may never see the crops come up, but you must do your work to keep planting.”
Written by Jessica Bartolini