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After half a century, alumna remains a lyrical part of RCBC's song

It was in the late 1960s when Alice Marsh walked into the unemployment office and left with paperwork to attend Burlington County College. At the time, Alice had courageously left behind an abusive relationship and was the single mother of three children. Although she didn’t graduate until several decades later, she ended up earning multiple degrees and remains a part of the community.

Alice’s story involves many twists and turns. Now, at 82 years old, she continues to carry a leather-bound notebook filled with the names, addresses and phone numbers of people she’s met along the way. She responds pensively to questions, usually taking a breath to formulate her thoughts and acknowledge people who have helped her. 

Marsh, of Willingboro, likes to make a difference in her community. One example of this occurred during her early years at the school. It troubled her to see students smoking in common areas on campus, so when given the opportunity to speak about a subject important to her in public speaking class, Marsh chose the effects of secondhand smoke. She left the presentation energized and motivated to implement real change. 

A chance encounter with then-college President Dr. Robert C. Messina Jr. provided that opportunity. He listened attentively to her concerns and assured her that “no smoking” signs would be installed throughout campus and that the buildings would be off-limits for smoking. This was prior to state regulations banning smoking.

Alice graduated from RCBC in 2007 with both a liberal arts and business administration degree. In fact, she was the oldest graduate in her class. She enjoyed her time at RCBC so much that she went back to earn a third degree in 2008, this time in music. 

A lifelong singer, Alice currently performs as a lyric soprano at five different churches. She also served as the music coordinator at Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Her musical career has taken her many places, including to the Vatican and Spain. She is currently a member of The Burlington Entertainers, a community troupe based in Burlington County and most recently sang the national anthem at RCBC’s 2019 Adult Basic Education commencement. 

One special memory was when she starred in the college’s production of Cabaret in 2008.

“At that time, Alice was a music major at BCC. She came to me before auditions to express her interest in being part of the production. We cast her as Fraulein Schneider alongside retired broadway actor Joseph Doyle, as Herr Schultz. The two worked beautifully together, and they were such an inspiration to the younger members of the cast,” said Pat Cohill, assistant professor of Theatre at RCBC. “The show had a dimension that most college productions do not have. It was an honor to work with Alice, and Cabaret is one of my fondest production memories.” 

Beyond singing, Alice also enjoys fashion design and sewing. She’s created several original pieces, and her signature style involves constructing buttonless jackets. When she was invited through an employer to President Richard Nixon’s inaugural ball in 1969, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to design an original gown to wear; the finished garment was silver and soft pink with intricate embellishments and included a complementing decorative scarf. Alice described the ball as a surreal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her.

Marsh now works as an assistant in RCBC’s computer lab, is continuing her music studies at the college and still seeks greater involvement among different generations of students. She would love to implement a musical singing group, a dance group, a broadway production and a fashion show, all organized and performed by seniors, with younger students as the audience. 

“I’d like to see more social opportunities for the middle-aged and older population here. My idea would be to harness the talents of those students and plan an evening of entertainment or form a group to showcase those talents,” Alice said. “I think the younger students would also enjoy seeing this.”

Alice's story is part of RCBC’s 50 stories for 50 years. In honor of the college’s 50th anniversary, RCBC is profiling students, faculty, administrators, alumni and the college community. Anyone interested in being featured can contact rcbcnews@rcbc.edu. To follow along on social media, use #RCBC50Stories.

(Left: Alice Marsh in RCBC's Laurel Hall computer lab [2019]. Right: Alice Marsh at Richard Nixon's inaugural ball [1969].)