Dual education majors

By

Erik Ketcherside

When Margaret Duhamel (BAE) and Marilyn Shipley (BAE, MAE) graduated from the Arizona State University college of education in 1965, they were named Margaret and Marilyn Bramley, but everyone called them simply, “The Twins.”

It was hard to miss them on campus. “Our freshman year, Dad got us a tandem bicycle,” Marilyn says, adding, “We wanted a car but that didn’t happen. So we used to ride it from Scottsdale to Tempe to school at the beginning of the week. We’d leave it there and ride it between our classes, then ride it home on Friday. Our freshman year the guys would come up behind us on the bike and take our beanies — freshmen had to wear beanies then.”

Marilyn and Margaret did most things in tandem. They chose the same career field; applied to ASU, commuted, shared classes and graduated together. Oddly, the 1965 edition of the Sun Devil Yearbook is the only artifact of their ASU lives in which they were separated. Their portraits appear on separate rows, perhaps because the editor didn’t want to be accused of carelessly duplicating one senior’s image.

Margaret Duhamel and Marilyn Shipley

Margaret and Marilyn at the 2015 Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Golden Graduates celebration

They were the first identical twins to be certified as teachers by the state of Arizona. A photo in The Arizona Republic showed them receiving their credentials from Superintendent of Public Instruction Sarah Folsum.

Margaret and Marilyn both became teachers in Southern California and would spend most of their professional lives in school districts there. They married within 15 months of each other and two became four. The couples were inseparable for 23 years until the husbands died — 15 months apart. The twins drew even closer and remained so for the rest of their careers. Then they built a house in Prescott, Arizona where they’ve retired together, and where their clear memories of the time they spent at ASU are fondly shared.

And they’re doing something else together: including Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in their estate plan.

Margaret explains why: “We always thought an awful lot of ASU, and we knew from the beginning that we would be setting up something to leave to ASU. We felt without the education we got, without the people we met there, life would have been a lot different for us.”

And Marilyn agrees: “ASU served us so well and opened our minds to think, which is what it takes to be a good teacher. We both feel very successful. ASU prepared us well.”

But while they may look identical, Marilyn and Margaret are not the same person. After graduation their careers were only parallel. And both their lives, inside the classroom and out, were remarkable.

Let them tell you.

Margaret

We were born in 1942 in Cleveland, but we were raised for most of our young lives in Phoenix. 

Marilyn

Margaret had asthma, and our father, Dr. Mel Bramley, decided to sell his veterinary practice and move the family to see if the Arizona climate would help her.

Margaret

We have two brothers. Dan still runs the Eastside Animal Hospital our father opened in Mesa, and Robert is a developer in Flagstaff.

Marilyn

We had so much fun as ASU students. We were in most of our classes together, and wherever we’d go we were just known as “The Twins.”

Margaret

ASU was so overwhelming when we were brand new there and didn’t know what was going on. And you wore a beanie and did what you were supposed to do. ASU is almost like a city now with all of the restaurants and services on campus, but we had to live in a dormitory with one of those little hot rod things that you put in a cup of water to make hot chocolate.

Marilyn

We both went in the medical direction at first. I started out in nursing and Margaret had an interest in medical technology.

Margaret

Looking back, though, it was kind of destined we would enter education. We grew up babysitting, teaching Sunday school, lifeguarding and teaching swimming and that kind of thing. Our mother was a teacher and a principal, and our aunt went to the Normal School at ASU for education.

Marilyn

Caryl Steere, the head kindergarten teacher at the laboratory school at ASU, was a longtime friend. She grabbed hold of us and said, “Why don’t you come spend some time at the school?” We spent about a week there. She put us to work and we really enjoyed that. That’s when we decided we wanted to go into education.

Margaret

After graduation we went straight to the coast. In those days school district administrators came to ASU to interview graduating students for jobs, and Marilyn and I each got five contracts. We went to California over Easter and figured out where we wanted to live. We were hired by Garden Grove Unified School District and lived in Long Beach. I was teaching gifted children in grades 1, 2 and 3.

Marilyn

I began as a teacher — kindergarten and primary, but mostly kindergarten. My second year teaching I had seven sets of twins in my kindergarten class; four in the morning and three in the afternoon. When they went on to first grade I separated every last one of them!

Margaret

I had learned to sail at Saguaro Lake in high school, and I knew when I graduated from college I wanted to end up at the coast so I could race my Lehman 12 dinghy. My first paycheck in 1965 went into joining the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club so I would have a place to put my boat and have an affiliation to race under. Three years later I got a Cal 20 and I raced that all over.

Marilyn

In 1968 we went to Europe for the summer and came back in time for school to start. I taught one more year and then came back to ASU for my Master of Arts degree in Elementary Education.

Margaret

That was our first separation in life, and it was certainly different. When you’re a twin you don’t have the independence you normally would, but when we were apart I did things that were me. I raced my boat in the Women’s North American Championships. I got my pilot’s license in 1971 and that year I flew in the Powder Puff Derby [women’s transcontinental air race].

Marilyn

When I finished my master’s degree I went back to California and took a job with the Riverside County Office of Education as coordinator of curriculum. I was one of four professional women in an office of men. I spent the majority of my career there training teachers and administrators. I just really loved working with teachers. That was my real excitement. It’s a delicate balance between preaching and showing. They’ve got to see people do it, not just have someone tell them what to do.

Margaret

I taught gifted students in the primary grades all through my career. I got my new students in at the first grade level and they stayed with me three years. I had to discover a way to teach three grade levels in the same classroom, so I created most of my materials myself. That was the best part of it for me: trying to understand what gifted children needed in terms of educational materials. It had to include a lot of hands-on experiences rather than just of paper-and-pencil work.

Marilyn

Margaret was born to be a teacher. She’s very creative. I think we’re both creative, in different ways, but you can give Margaret a bottlecap and she’ll figure out something to do with it. You would never have convinced me when I graduated that I was going to go into administration, but I really felt that was where I could help. I loved writing curriculum and helping to implement it, and making training processes in which teachers got to know the curriculum and watch me demonstrate it with students. 

I started my own consulting service and I went all over, teaching teachers and administrators. I got another master’s in school administration from Fullerton State and a doctorate in educational management at the University of La Verne. I taught at UC Riverside, Pepperdine and Long Beach State. But I still miss those children I first had as a teacher. I still talk to some of them once in a while. And I have teachers who’ve said, “You taught me all I know.” It’s really nice, that feeling of being able to pass something on.

Margaret

Marilyn was in Riverside, about an hour away. We would see each other at least once or twice a week, and we talked every single day. And then she got married, and a year and a half later I was married. We were a very close foursome. We went back and forth a lot.

Marilyn

My sister and I were married 15 months apart, and 23 years later, our husbands died 15 months apart. I lost mine just before I retired.

Margaret

Twins are always close anyway, but our husbands were also very close. Neither of us remarried. We both had beautiful marriages.

Marilyn

After we were widowed we knew it would be very difficult to meet two men who were as generous and caring as the men we had. That was a part of our lives that was difficult to get through, but I think my consulting and my working with people helped me get through that hard part.

Margaret

Marilyn sold her home in Riverside and moved in with me in Long Beach. I knew that we would always be close and take care of each other.

Marilyn

I retired a year earlier than Margaret, and I got to work in her classroom for a year. You should have seen the first reactions from the children. We used to do that when we started teaching. We would visit each other’s classrooms and the little ones would say, “Miss Bramley, you better look. There’s another just like you at the door!”

Margaret

While we were in Long Beach our brother, Robert, helped us build our house in Prescott. Our entire family was still in Arizona, so retiring here was like coming home.

Marilyn

We love it here. We get all four seasons, and there’s so much going on. There’s bands and western music and cloggers. There’s a big town square and everybody meets at the courthouse. Almost every night in the summer they have music.

Margaret

We still talk about ASU. We can name all the classes we took that meant so much to us. We felt no hesitation at all to go in and talk to one of the professors when we had a problem.

Marilyn

ASU served us so well and opened our minds to think, which is what it takes to be a good teacher. We love it. We try to push it.

Margaret

We’re hoping our gift to the teachers college will help other students get through their training so they can go out and start their own careers. It will mean more books written, more activities planned. We hope it will help them take an in-depth look at education and what it truly means to a young child.

Are you a proud alumna or alumnus of the college of education at ASU like Margaret and Marilyn? Find out how you can support Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.