The Quayle Scholarship
|Melissa Hatfield Riggs|
"All children are my children. I teach them the songs and whatever else I can. That's what Grandmothers are for—to teach songs and tell stories and show them the right berries to pick and roots to dig. And also to give them all the love they can stand. No better job in the world than being Grandmother.”
— Leila Fisher, Hoh Tribe
In the Navajo culture, says Graylynn Hudson, adults refer to all children as she awee, or “my child.” The children of a Navajo community are everyone’s children.
So Hudson, a doctoral student in counseling psychology, was touched to hear Betty Quayle of San Diego call her “my new child” as the two met at the Native American Convocation last May, where Hudson received one of two inaugural Louis H. and Betty J. Quayle Scholarships for Native American graduate students at NAU.
“I think it is wonderful that you consider the recipients of your scholarship as your children,” Hudson said. “She awee is a very endearing and heartfelt word, and I truly appreciate that you view your scholarship students in that way.”
Betty and her late husband Louis (Louie) spent their lives investing in the children of others, teaching middle and high school for 30 years in the San Diego school system. Louie taught science and outdoor education; Betty was an art teacher and school counselor.
While the Quayles did not have children of their own, they had, always, a multitude of children of the heart. Many were once their students or co-workers and have remained in touch for decades. Some of these students’ children, and even occasionally their grandchildren, consider Betty a cross between a mentor and another grandmother.
Betty mentions her “acting son” Steve, who adopted the couple 40 years ago. She spends Christmas with him and his Japanese wife’s family. Other holidays she spends with Scottish relatives. She has dear friends among many southwestern Native American tribes and spoke Navajo and Hopi as a child with her friends on the reservation.
Among the many students Betty touched as an educator were Native American students living in the California military housing projects, to whom she could offer special assistance and activities grounded in her knowledge of their heritage and traditions. One of these children, now a distinguished professor in the southwest, became a lifelong friend.
“It has been my pleasure to see her dance in her village,” Betty says. “I managed to be there when she got her BA and MA. Watching her raise two children and get her doctorate from Berkeley helped me in making the choice after my husband died to endow this scholarship. I doubt she knows the influence her remarkable family and friendship has had on me. She is just one of my ‘children’ who has led me along the way.”
Some people are spell-casters who draw people to them, transcending race, culture, and age. Betty is like that.
She speaks of growing up in Flagstaff during the Great Depression; time spent on the Navajo and Hopi reservations; now-legendary Flagstaff figures like the Coltons and Dr. Fronske; serving as a WAC at World War II military hospitals; southwestern archaeological digs; Native American art and ceremonies; and the distinguished friends, mentors, and “children” who have been a part of her life.
There are tales of her lovely mother, Rosamund Hopkins Fox of New York, a descendant of Thomas Welles (twice governor of the Colony of Connecticut in the mid-1600s).
And there are even more tales of her adventurous father William Walker, born in Scotland in 1885, who came to New Hampshire as a child and set out alone in 1903 to explore the American Southwest.
Walker was a carpenter and Indian trader and military man and posse member. He worked on the Panama Canal, helped rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, and participated in the 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico with John J. Pershing and George S. Patton. He did construction work all over Arizona — including Arizona State Teacher’s College (now NAU) — but his favorite jobs were building schools and trading posts on the reservations.
The story of his life is fascinating to anyone interested in colorful characters and/or Northern Arizona history. See part of the William Walker Collection online, including photos and the biographical sketch Betty wrote on her father’s life.
Her parents are buried in the Citizens Cemetery beside the NAU campus. When Betty visits, she places flowers on her mother’s grave and pours a libation of tequila for her father.
“I never really left Flagstaff,” she says wistfully. So much of who she became was a legacy of the unique, multicultural climate Flagstaff still represents. Betty speaks of the artificiality of race relations today. “For me, as a child in Flagstaff, they did not exist.”
Transcending cultures is something Betty learned early. Her good friend Flora, whom she has known since the 4th grade, is Hopi.
“I saw so many ceremonies with Flora,” Betty says. “I saw her grandfather chant to close the day and return the sun, and listened to the drums in the kiva as her family ground corn for piki bread. Flora lost her mother about the same time my mother died in 1937. We both had to become women early and take care of our fathers and brothers, and we did it together.”
Walker was constantly invited to events and ceremonies on the reservations. “My brothers and I must have driven our teachers wild,” says the former teacher wryly. “We were frequently off to the reservation for three or four days with no notice.”
When her father would kill a deer, he would share quarters with the families of Native American friends, who reciprocated with baskets of squash, corn, and potatoes left on their porch. The Babbitts, owners of the local grocery store, extended credit to the Walkers for food and were repaid at need with Walker’s carpentry and construction skills. In this fashion, Northern Arizona families made it through the depression.
“I have been helped by so many people all my life,” Betty says. “You can’t thank them all, so you have to hold out your hands to others. All you can do to repay those that helped you is make that effort. As long as you keep your heart open, things will come to you.”
Louie, a member of a well-known family of architects, grew up in San Diego. He spent time in the back country with his grandfather, who had gold mines in the area. He, too, came to have Native American friends and developed an enduring interest in Native American history and culture.
Louie served in the U.S. Army during WWII all over the Pacific Theater. He participated in the taking of Manila and the liberation of 2,100 prisoners at the Los Banos camp north of the city and was part of an amphibious tractor battalion that smuggled out prisoners from behind Japanese lines.
Betty and Louie resumed their studies at San Diego State University after their military service. They met at the Museum of Man in San Diego and were married there in 1949. Museums became another common thread in the couple’s lives, especially after Louie received his graduate degree in anthropology at the University of Arizona (UA) in the fifties.
The Quayle Scholarship
In the wake of Louie’s death in 2006, Betty has been distributing the cherished possessions of a lifetime. The Quayles had an extensive southwestern and Native American anthropological and art collection which began in the 1800s with Louie’s grandfather, who ran a trading post in Illinois. “If you sell a collection as a whole,” Betty says, “you don’t have any rights to where individual artifacts go, and I wanted to determine that myself.”
So she worked with an auctioneer in New Mexico who could ensure that many of her items were placed with museums. Items that were gifts with intense personal significance she returned to the giver or the giver’s family. “We never own things,” Betty says. “We are just custodians for a little while.”
Other pieces went to private collectors who could pay a great deal of money for them, and it is these sales that are funding the NAU scholarship endowment. “I wanted to help the living as well as museums,” she explains. Betty chose to fund graduate students because there is a great deal more assistance available to undergraduates and because graduate students often have their own children or aging parents to care for.
The scholarship account totals $100,000, and Betty will continue to add to the fund. Because the scholarship is endowed and only the interest spent, the principal and the individual scholarship awards will grow over time. The Quayle scholarship will continue to fund NAU grad students in perpetuity.
Lupe Esparza, an NAU master’s of administration student specializing in public management, is the second inaugural Quayle scholarship recipient. Esparza delayed her hopes of higher education to work for her family, then to care for her elderly parents. She was thrilled to be selected for a scholarship.
“You are providing the opportunity for people such as me to continue with their dream,” she wrote. “No matter how long it takes, or how hard life truly is, as long as there are loving and caring people such as you, I know there is hope for a better life for all of us.”
Betty in turn was thrilled to discover that Esparza is a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe near Tucson. She and Louie came to know the Yaqui people well during their time at UA, and she vividly describes attending the centuries-old Passion of Christ ceremonies which gave the community its name.
“I am glad that these first two scholarship recipients are women,” Betty says. “I suppose this comes from the fact that my generation of women had to fight for things. I come from several generations of free-speaking women and activists. Most of the people who guided and helped me over the decades have been women, often teachers and professional women. However, a good number were simply nurturing older women with room in their hearts for just one more child.”
A World Lives in You
Theologian Frederick Buechner once said, “You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
A world lives in you. What is amazing about Betty is how much more appropriate it is to speak of “worlds.”
How many worlds can people carry inside themselves? And how many children can one person have?
Many worlds, Betty teaches us. All the children.