Getting to Know Priscilla Hearst

Priscilla Hearst

Priscilla Hearst

Getting to Know Priscilla Hearst

Young or old, people can impress us with their attitudes and perspectives. If young, they give us thoughts about how they may affect their surroundings and perhaps even bring about change within our society. Those who have lived long lives may provide us with illustrations of how we can, and should, take stronger positions when faced with important issues. Priscilla Hearst provides an example of the latter. But, that is a decision you must make for yourself. All this piece can do is to offer a brief description of her life. Then, it is up to you. So, here goes.

Priscilla Fox spent her young life in Oakland, California, living with her grandparents during the depression while her parents both worked to keep their family solvent during that difficult era. Her father was a union organizer and mariner. During the depression, he became captain of a ferry boat which carried people between San Francisco and Oakland and her mother was employed as a foster mother.  Her parents then moved with her to Lake Washington in Seattle. Those years are remembered as ‘tomboy’ times during which this little girl learned much from her father about politics, government and speaking up when a situation called for it.

Priscilla graduated from the University of Washington after majoring in Social Science.  Upon graduation she was employed by the Seattle Police to work with juveniles.  She then went on doing graduate work at the U of W in Political Science. During that time, she had a professor with an interesting way of teaching: he would ask a question and then encourage students to respond by using facts employed to present logical arguments. That professor suggested to a post graduate student who worked for him, Joseph Hearst, that he should get to know this young woman who was outstandingly convincing. The result led to their marriage.

The Hearsts then moved to New York where Joe received his Ph.D.  After that he took a position at Whitman College in Washington before coming to Idaho State University.  Joe taught Political Science and eventually became Dean of the College of Arts and Science. The decision to come to Pocatello, Idaho was based on the natural wonders that surrounded it along with the Bannock-Shoshone Reservation, the mountains and the snow.

The Hearst family comprises four children: Alice with a Ph.D and a law degree; Jonena, with a Ph.D.; Joe junior with a law degree and Melissa who worked her way up to being well known and highly respected in the Forest Service.  All four exhibit the forthright and clear thinking qualities of their parents.The children were interested in horses so Priscilla tackled horsemanship. Then she became a 4-H leader so they could gain a broader understanding of horse care and riding.  She also worked with other youngsters so they could learn about the geology of this area and the many aspects of caring and training of dogs and horses. She also helped them learn about plant growth and use. Her  method of working with the children in 4-H was generated by her understanding  that learning takes place when we are actively involved and having fun at the same time.

Priscilla also worked to guide young unwed mothers; those for whom family situations were difficult; and others who were affected by any number of issues that can send youngsters and teenagers in a negative direction.  All of these efforts were the result of her education in Social Science and her natural understanding of the human condition. In addition to encouraging the Hearst children and doing Social work, Priscilla also sustained her interest in young people and their need to be happy and secure. Most of all she attended to the need for love and the means to be a responsible part of humanity.

Priscilla tells of one situation in which she was working to help a Mexican child’s physical problems. To that end, she wrote a letter to the Health Department in Texas, asking for help. She received an answer several months later that consisted of one negative sentence written at the bottom of her letter to that Department. So, she made a copy of that letter; typed another letter critical of that Health Department’s casual response and sent it to the Governors of Texas and of Idaho in addition to several influential  individuals. The outcome was that Priscilla was contacted by several people, including both Governors, to apologize and thank her for standing up for a child’s needs.

Another memory indicative of Priscilla’s caring for young people is that of a young fellow, a brother of an ISU student she helped by providing a home for him as he progressed at ISU. The young fellow appreciated her so much for how she was helping, that he sent her a stone Buddha from Vietnam, where he was stationed in the army. A week after receiving the statue, she was notified that he had been killed in Vietnam.  Shortly after that, someone stole the Buddha from the little garden in front of her house. She now has another Buddha, but telling the story of the original stature and its meaning brings a tear to her eye.

Priscilla was also influential in starting the Frank Church Symposiums that take place yearly at ISU. Her intention was to give students a task for which they could present information from far and wide that would honor the aims of Frank Church and help ISU students become acquainted with people and issues from around the world. She attends each of the yearly events

Those three stories are included here only as a sample of the depth and breadth of the feelings and concerns this woman has along with a respect for facts rather than unproven ideas. I see it as a capacity for caring, being responsible, taking the time and energy to investigate ways in which to help others and then having the confidence to act upon them. Those concepts should live on and provide a pathway for accomplishment as shown in response to misguided actions. Above all, Priscilla believes that if you want to grow old happily, it is important to extend happy deeds and thoughts to others. Priscilla Hearst had her 90th birthday a few months ago and is still an intellectually active thinker.


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