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October 25, 2010

Brescia alumna and NASA educator to be recognized with honorary degree from Western

Marline McleishLondon, ON – Brescia University College alumna Dr. Marlene MacLeish (’68) has said that her education from Canada’s women’s university made Harvard seem relatively easy. On October 29, MacLeish will add an honorary degree from The University of Western Ontario to her lengthy list of achievements and recognitions.

After earning a B.A. in Psychology from Brescia, MacLeish completed her M.Ed. and Ed. D. degrees from Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. Today, MacLeish is: Professor of Medical Education at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia; Director of the MSM-National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s Educational Outreach Program at Morehouse; Senior Education Fellow of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute; and is a Member of the International Academy of Astronautics in Paris, France. She served as the first Team Leader of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) National Space Biomedical Research Institute Education and Public Outreach Program for eleven years and directed educational outreach for NASA’s six-nation STS-90 mission, Neurolab.

MacLeish is recognized internationally for her contributions to space exploration education, and has researched, lectured, and written extensively about the impact of space travel on the human body and is author of The Brain in Space. In spite of her many achievements, the honour from Western has particular meaning for her. “There is something special about recognition that comes, unexpectedly, from a place that you consider to be ‘home.’ This honour from Western forces me to contemplate the long journey that has brought me to this point in my career. My accomplishments, many of which seemed absolutely improbable when I graduated from Western in 1968, grew out of the foundations of my Brescia/University of Western Ontario liberal arts education.”

Having taken courses on both campuses and marrying a Western engineer, MacLeish said they have lived comfortably in both Brescia and Western worlds for more than 40 years. “In my professional life, the Western ‘diploma’ holds sway for purposes of certification. However, my college of ‘orientation’ is Brescia. The academic and emotional care that I received from Brescia is indelible.

“Women’s colleges play a significant role in the lives of women – they create ‘holding grounds’ for women from all walks of life to thrive; fail without giving up; pursue their intellectual paths; envision new communities; and to delight in service, which helps us to find a purpose that is bigger than yourself…like going to Mars!”

MacLeish said she derives her greatest sense of achievement from her extended family’s well-being; from working with the dispossessed; and from taking on challenges that have potential to become opportunities. Those values earned her Brescia’s Carmelle Murphy Alumna of Distinction Award in 2004. She returned to her alma mater again in 2009 to deliver the following words in her address to graduating students at Brescia’s Baccalaureate ceremony: “I learned from Mother Rosana that winning is just plain hard work. When I drifted away, reading poetry and literature and fumbled on my Spanish final examination, she gave me a failing grade. But when I finally made A’s in Spanish, my confidence soared. Believe me, after my Brescia education, Harvard was easy and space exploration education quite manageable!”

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Brescia University College, Canada’s premier women’s university college, is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. The 1,100 women registered as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more information, please visit

To view the release online, please go to Brescia’s Online Media Room at

To arrange for a telephone interview with Dr. MacLeish please contact:

Julie Maltby
Communications, Marketing & External Relations Officer
Phone: 519.432.8353, ext. 28280