Suzanne Zeghibe Ball and Doug Zeghibe share many fond and indelible memories of Marion Barstow Proctor, an honorary member of The Skating Club of Boston, and a legendary figure inseparable from their recollections of the Club throughout the 1970’s when the sister and brother took lessons there.
“She was a natural teacher,” says Doug, who now serves as executive director of the Club.
“To me,” adds Suzanne, “she was an inspiring person – an incredible role model.”
One of Marion’s most significant legacies was a passion for bringing skating to the wider public. Her Metropolitan Figure Skating School, offering classes at the different MDC (now DCR) rinks, introduced generations of young boys and girls to skating, and helped lead the way for group instruction nationwide. Today’s U.S. Figure Skating Learn to Skate U.S.A. program has its roots in Marion’s innovative model, and it continues to inform the Club’s current Skating Academy program.
“Marion’s legacy made an invaluable and lasting contribution to the Club,” says Doug. “She is rooted in its genetic makeup.”
“What she achieved with the Metropolitan Figure Skating Public School was revolutionary,” agrees Suzanne. “It was before the Dorothy Hamill era, when everybody and anybody wanted to get on the ice. She developed programs that allowed young kids to get into the sport in an easy and affordable way.
Doug and Suzanne are amplifying and preserving Marion’s legacy by naming the Performance Center viewing gallery in the Norwood facility in her honor. “It’s a fitting space to pay homage to a person who inspired so many young people”, says Doug, “as it is one place our Skating Academy students will lace up their skates.
“The gallery is all about what we want the Club to be: aspirational, but open to all,” he says. “That is what Marion represented, and exactly what The Skating Club of Boston is all about.”
Doug and Suzanne’s gift expresses their gratitude to a person who greatly impacted their own history with The Skating Club of Boston. Doug and Suzanne were introduced to the Club at a young age by their mother, a long-time recreational skater who joined the Club in 1965 to advance her passion and pass it along to her children. Doug, who followed a competitive skating path, had Marion as his first private coach.
Doug and Suzanne agree Proctor was a person who set high standards. As director of Ice Chips for a decade, Marion ran that signature show “like a tight ship,” says Doug. But she was also personal and kind.
“She could be speaking to a whole group, but somehow I felt she was speaking directly to me,” says Suzanne.
Marion, a graduate of Wheelock College, translated her love for early childhood education to the ice. She joined the Club staff in 1957, and as Doug notes, was a natural and gifted teacher.
That gift would find a larger arena – and a deeply personal connection — after the horrific plane crash in Brussels on Feb. 15, 1961 that killed the entire U.S. Figure Skating team. Marion lost many friends and coaches in the crash, and she wanted to do something to ensure that others would be inspired to take up the sport and carry it forward.
Indeed, if there is one word that best frames Marion Proctor’s life, it is pioneer, says Doug. “A pioneer for the sport and a pioneer for professional women. She was ahead of the curve in showing women what it was like to be independent in mind and in action.” Most importantly, “Marion made skating accessible for everybody at a time when it was still seen as a privileged sport. These are coaches who we want to make sure are celebrated because they fundamentally helped shape the sport and they had impact on individual skaters’ lives.”
There was a lot more to Marion than just a coach on the ice, though. In many ways, she was a Renaissance woman.
“We had a house near her on the Cape, and she taught me how to swim, how to sail, she was just a gifted teacher beyond skating,” says Doug. “And she was an amazingly gifted painter. I have one of her paintings hanging in my house today.”
“She was either swimming or sailing, and she had an incredible affinity for animals,” says Suzanne. “She was always rescuing animals that had been hurt; once she built a cage for a seagull that had broken its wing so she could nurse it back to health. Another time she adopted an injured baby raccoon and it became a house pet.”
Proctor was made an honorary member of the Club in 1980 and continued to serve the Club right up until her death in 1990. As plans for the new facility emerged, Doug and Suzanne saw an opportunity to give her life wider recognition.
The Marion B. Proctor gallery by design and function acknowledges her well-deserved prominence. Located front and center on the first floor, it is at the heart of activity, “Marion would love that,” says Suzanne.
And separated from the lobby by glass and facing the performance center, the gallery will be a crossroads for all visitors—be they students, parents, or spectators—and will be used for activities as varied as watching skating, or hosting seminars and receptions. “It’s designed to be open and welcoming, and to encourage community,” says Doug. “It’s just like Marion.”