Rededication of Haskell dormitory tells story of Margaret Blalock

Fame comes and goes, but real heroes and heroines live everyday lives, often not realizing their impact on those around them.

Many pass without knowing of the legacy they left behind. So it was with Margaret Wood Blalock.

Others recognized the difference she made to hundreds of students over the years at Haskell and in 1977, a new student residence hall was named after her. It was too late for Margaret to see. She died in 1968.

No plaque was ever placed in the dorm and its namesake remained unknown to the many students who have lived there. That was until May 2000.

There was a rededication of the building and a photograph and plaque to commemorate Margaret's years of service to Haskell Indian Nations University were placed in the dorm so future students may understand the legacy of the Chippewa woman from Minnesota.

As the ceremony began May 11, the lobby of Blalock Hall was filled primarily with family members and a few old friends. Many of the students who live there had returned home for the summer.

But as old friends began to talk about Margaret Blalock, the numbers swelled. Students who had never even heard of Blalock stood with teary eyes as they listened to the stories.

Margaret Wood was born in Cloquet, Minn., and came to Haskell to study commercial business. She met Jack Blalock and the couple married after they graduated, in 1941.

After World War II, Margaret and Jack returned to Haskell to work. Margaret originally worked in the admissions office and Jack worked in the carpentry shop.

Eventually, Margaret became the first night attendant at Haskell. Her kind, authoritative leadership was remembered by many attending the rededication.

Dempsy Micco, Archie Hawkins and John McClelland all remembered that Margaret had been there for students, before the days of counselors and advisors. Reportedly she never yelled or shouted at students, but took them aside quietly and talked to them about their futures and problems they may have been having.

"I have all my family here and I am so proud," Blalock's daughter, Lee Ann Martin, said. Her eyes welled with tears as she and her family - brother Jay Blalock and Laraine Ulery and multitudes of spouses, nieces, nephews, children and grandchildren gathered.

They remembered not only Margaret, but a different Haskell. Back then many employees had apartments on campus and their children grew up playing on the grounds and in the buildings. There was a sense of community and for many, Haskell was not only a place of learning, but also a place of family.

"My brother's and my first experience with intercoms was when mom worked at Pocahontas Hall. It was summer so we got to go down there and look at the fish and stuff. We got to arguing and suddenly we heard this voice, 'I know what you are doing!'

"We really believed from that moment on that she really did have eyes in the back of her head!" Martin said. "It was years before we figured out it was an intercom."

John McClelland, who graduated from Haskell and then went on to Oklahoma State University, remembered the little things Margaret did for students. His fondest memory and one that had stayed with him throughout all his life was her fried potatoes.

As a Haskell student, those times Margaret and Jack Blalock invited him to their home for dinner were magical for McClelland. He told the crowd it was a wonderful escape from institutional food.

"Margaret always had these wonderful fried potatoes. She always cooked them. There would be a big bowl on the table for everyone and then she would put a smaller bowl out and that was all for Jack. I used to look at that and think that when I grew up that was what I wanted - a bowl of potatoes just for me.

"As you can see that is just what I got," he said, patting his stomach.

McClelland said that had it not been for Margaret and Jack Blalock, he would never have completed his education and he pondered what might have happened if the couple had not been there for him.

There are many stories like John McClelland's, tales of encouragement and strength that made a difference in the lives of Haskell students over the years as they left their homes and began their journey toward adulthood.

Margaret Blalock didn't discover any great scientific breakthroughs. She didn't do anything remarkable in politics or religion. She led a simple life in which she loved her husband and family and extended that love and concern to a dorm full of strangers each year.

Yet it was her quiet strength and dedication to those students that made a difference to so many. Her life is proof that every person can make a difference if they simply treat others with kindness and encourage

That was why the Haskell Alumni Association honored Margaret in 1977. Jack Blalock lived long enough to see the hall dedicated and named after his wife. He died in 1982.

The photograph of a young Margaret Blalock now smiles back at students in the hall named for her, dark eyes full of life and love sparkle.

The name - Blalock Hall - suddenly made sense to students who had never given it a thought before. A plaque will tell future students why the hall was named after her.

But to many who knew Margaret, it was the simple magic of a home-cooked dinner and fried potatoes that will stay in their minds forever.