Margaret Randolph, first woman elected MC trustee, dies at 91

March 1, 2018

Dedicated community servant and former Merced College trustee, Margaret “Maggie” Randolph, died early Wednesday morning at the Park Merced assisted living facility. She was 91.

Randolph arrived in Merced with her husband and three young sons, in 1961. Leaving a very active cultural and social life in the Bay Area with strong regrets, she vowed that if she had to move she would make things happen in what was then, small-town Merced.

As she leaves this life behind 57 years later, her impact on behalf of the Merced community is memorable.

Born to two first generation immigrants from Scotland, Samuel and Elizabeth Renfrew, Maggie went to Scotland with her family at 6 months of age and returned to Detroit two years later.

Her father started his engineering career working for Henry Ford at the peak of the American automobile industry boom while Maggie lived and attended school in the Hazel Park suburb outside of Detroit. Maggie was a born singer from her earliest years. Her father was politically active during her youth and he would put her up on stage at political rallies and say "Sing Margaret.”

She never stopped singing, and Scottish ballads remained a joyful part of her repertoire throughout her life. Singing was almost as natural to her as breathing, whether she was on stage singing in an opera, in a church choir, a college choral group, her living room or in the hallway of a senior living community.

Maggie entered the University of Michigan, over the objection of her strong-willed father who thought a women's college would be more appropriate. Her father's fears were well-founded as she soon fell in love with California boy George Binford Randolph (known as Bin in those days, then as Randy during his post-college years), who after the extended courtship required to win over her father's approval, moved her away to the Bay Area where his family lived.

Bin at the time was in the Navy and attending the University on the Officer Training Corps program. They were married September 7, 1946 and maintained a strong and mutually supportive relationship until his passing in September of 2010. Their first home was in Cupertino, California, on the corner of a rural orchard property known today as Apple Park, the location of the new campus of Apple, Inc.

Her first two sons, Robert and Samuel, were born in hospitals in San Jose. Third son Paul Binford was born in Stockton prior to a family move to Walnut Creek. Upon her move to Merced, Maggie followed through on her promise to make things happen. She was President and a founding member the Women's Symphony League, Director of the Merced Symphony Association, President and founding member of the Friends of the Library, a member of the Merced Library Commission and the Employers Advisory Council to the Employment Development Department as well as being a member of the Regional Arts Council, the Merced Historical Society, the League of Women Voters, and the leader of three Cub Scout Dens. She also served as President of the John Muir and Hoover Parent Teacher Associations.

Of all of Maggie's life works, her devotion to the founding and growth of Merced Community College was most dear to her heart. When the team of local citizens was interviewing the candidate soon to become the first President of the Community College, Mr. Lowell Barker, Maggie was the person on the interview committee that had the heart to invite him for dinner and host an overnight stay in her family home and give him a warm welcome to the Merced community. Lowell and his wife became close friends in the years they lived in Merced.

When John Hann was ready to step down as a Merced College Trustee (1963-1976), he asked Maggie to run for his position. She rose to the challenge and was elected five times to four year terms. She was known for being well prepared, independent of thought and unafraid of being outnumbered on controversial issues. As the first woman to be elected as a Merced College Trustee, she was a champion for issues of particular concern to the women of the community.

The Child Development Center, the Women's Re-entry Program and most particularly, the Registered Nursing program, benefitted from her unrelenting support. The creation of the Registered Nursing program was her greatest source of pride, and fittingly, her granddaughter, Tiffany Villanueva, graduated from the program and is an Registered Nurse in the Surgical Department at Dignity Hospital here in Merced. Maggie was also active on statewide and national programs promoting the interests of Community Colleges and served as a director for the Pacific Region of the National Association of Community College Trustees. To further her outreach on behalf of Merced College, Maggie was on the Presidents Advisory Council for California State University Stanislaus (CSUS) and worked as a liaison between Merced College and CSUS on behalf of streamlining student transfer programs, always looking after the nuts and bolts of helping our local students move forward in their education.

It is worth noting that Maggie saw the community college as the door to education for the people in our community that do not have the financial means, the freedom in their schedule or the academic credentials to attend a university. After serving 20 years as Trustee, Maggie retired from public service but continued to promote Merced College as a very active member of the Merced College Foundation, the organization that encourages private philanthropic support for Merced College.

In honor of Maggie's dedication to Merced College, the board room in the administration building is named the Margaret M. Randolph Board Room. As the Founding President of the Friends of the Library, she was also well aware that the existing library building at 2125 M Street, which had been built originally in 1897 to house the Merced County High School, was no longer safe or sufficient for the community's library requirements as of the 1970s. Maggie dedicated herself to the campaign to replace the old library with a new library building and was very active in the politics and negotiations required to see the project funded and the new library building constructed. She also had the privilege of being the new library's first Story Lady.

Maggie was a member of the Central Presbyterian Church of Merced for over 40 years and performed in the church choir for many years, including a period of time when three other Randolph family members sang with her in the choir. Maggie also found time to play tennis in her younger years and golf into her senior years. She was active locally promoting the sport of tennis at a time when there were a very few tennis courts in Merced and she took a turn as a Captain of the Women's Division of the Merced Golf & Country Club. She was a loving and supportive mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Raised by her strong-willed Scottish parents, Maggie's three sons learned early that they needed to put up a good argument and solid defense if they were going win her approval for some new level of freedom that hey thought they had earned. Over the years family heard repeatedly from the people that Maggie interacted with during her many campaigns that "You can't say NO to your mother." We knew exactly what they were talking about.

Maggie was pre-deceased by her husband Randy Randolph, and by friend of the family and her late-in-life companion, Robert Thorensen. She is survived by her sister Elizabeth Campbell and brother Murray Renfrew, both living in Florida and by her Merced-based family: sons Robert B (Jan, Erika & Robert), Samuel M. (Tralee), Paul B., and adopted son Andrew J. Luxon, grandson Paul Michael Randolph (Jennifer, Jordan), granddaughter Tiffany Villanueva (Billy), great grandsons Alexander and William, and great granddaughter Hallie Marie Villanueva.

The family would like to make special mention of the loving care that has been provided during Maggie's last years by Amie Marchini and her staff at Park Merced Assisted Living and by her Home Care staff. It is noteworthy that Amie is a woman who has also dedicated her efforts to providing fundamental services that benefit the entire community. The excellent attention and services of the Hinds Hospice staff during her passing has also been greatly appreciated.

Services and remembrances for Margaret Randolph are to be announced.

Call (209) 383-0433
or (209) 358-5311

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