Author, educator and community leader Dr. Mary L. Walshok is credited with creating a new model of lifelong learning by integrating the fields of education, civic and cultural enrichment, and economic development.
As Dean of University Extension and Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Programs at UC San Diego, Walshok serves as the chief executive of the continuing education and public programs arm of the university.
Her team numbers 275 employees and 4,000 instructors.
A role model for her own philosophy of public service, Walshok serves on a host of boards including the Girard Foundation; The California Council for the Humanities; the Francis W. Parker School Board of Trustees, of which she was president; and the San Diego Foundation, whose board she chaired from 2001-2003. She chairs the board of the International Community Foundation and is a board member for the La Jolla Playhouse and the United States-Mexico Foundation for Science (FUMEC).
What brought you to La Jolla?A two-career marriage in the 1960s. I received my master’s in 1966 and doctorate in sociology in 1969 from Indiana University, where I met my late husband, Marco Walshok, who went on to become a professor at San Diego State University. After serving on the faculty at Cal Sate University Fullerton, I made the jump to UC San Diego in 1972 and joined University Extension in 1975.
What makes La Jolla special to you?First is the extraordinary talent on the Torrey Pines Mesa. The stretch of Torrey Pines Road that runs past my office is known as the $3 Billion Mile. That is how much research the cluster of public institutes, private biotech firms and private foundations is conducting.
Also I am still awestruck by the physical beauty of the area. I am a native Californian, and I have fond memories of coming to La Jolla as a girl in the 1950s. Fifty years later, La Jolla has not lost any of its charm.
If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?Less traffic. More affordable housing.
Who or what inspires you?People with integrative ideas who can see beyond their own area of expertise.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?I’d like a gathering at which people from different worlds can meet and talk, so… I would invite Yo-Yo Ma, the world renowned cellist, because I love music; playwright and actor Sam Sheppard, because he can write, direct, and act; Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” because he rocks; James Fallows, a fixture of the Atlantic Monthly for 25 years; Indiana’s gift to opera, soprano Renee Fleming; Calvin Trillin, the food writer from The New Yorker; former HEW Secretary and current University of Miami president Donna E. Shalala; and Nelson Mandela because he is Nelson Mandela.
Tell us about what you are currently reading.“Innovation Nation” by John Kao; “The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai; “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson.
What is your most prized possession?As the years go by, what you prize the most are the relationships with friends and colleagues. Although during the October wild fires I did pack up my collections of antique Chinese porcelain and Japanese woodblock prints.
What do you do for fun?Attend music performances of all kinds: opera, jazz, rock and sometimes actually perform all of the above with musical friends.
Please describe your greatest accomplishment.During my tenure I have played an active part in helping the university expand its local impact, national reputation and global reach. Since becoming dean in 1981, our division has grown 200-fold. With no state funding, Extension attracts more than $30 million annually through fees, contracts and grants. Learners hail from across the United States and around the globe. We have a number of internationally-recognized programs but, even more importantly, we have been a valuable university partner in the economic transformation of the region, the continuing education of our highly educated workforce and in elucidating civic opportunities and challenges.
What is your motto or philosophy of life?Ideas, invention and learning are the heart of what drives personal development, economic growth and a lively democracy.
Ideas, inventions and learning opportunities are not the exclusive purview of colleges and universities anymore. The scholarship and expertise resident in great centers of intellectual activity such as UCSD need to be in continuous conversation with the experience, knowledge and complexities of the larger society. My personal goals and our instructional mission in Extension is to enable conversations and learning opportunities which engage expertise from many communities and enrich the lives of all. World-recognized programs such as Global CONNECT and the San Diego Dialogue have helped the region deepen social and economic relations with Asia, Canada, Latin America and Europe. The result has been crossborder research, education and partnerships conducive to new business opportunities in emerging technology corridors.