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The Delightful Depth of Dr. D

posted Nov 26, 2019, 6:36 AM by Floyd Wygant   [ updated ]
Dr Downs-Gamble

by Hazel Dow '22
    

Who describes defending their dissertation as “delightful”? Margaret Downs-Gamble, that’s who, although she prefers to be called Dr. D. This word is also fitting for Dr. D’s personality.  Often, Dr. D calls out to someone in the hallway, a cheery “Hello”. She is likely met with surly teenage expressions; this greeting habit of hers is resiliently delightful. Although she may appear bubbly on the surface, her scholarship demonstrates intellectual depth and talent. 

After being pressed twice, she humbly revealed a Certificate of Teaching Excellence from Virginia Tech, the Joseph B. Whitehead National Educator of Distinction for high school teaching award, two Certificates of Achievement from the Air Force Academy, and the Commander's Award for Civilian Service from the United States Military Academy and the Department of the Army. For Dr. D, these are not mere achievements. During the pinning ceremony of the rarely awarded Commander’s Award, she described being so struck by the meaningfulness of the recognition that she cried. 

She went from not being able to decide her major in college to strategically placing a critical word choice in her dissertation. As evidence of an open mind, Dr. D majored in English with minors in Linguistics, Geology, Physical Anthropology, History, and Latin. After undergrad, she took a break from formal academics to embark on her own antique restoration business and to start a family. Also, she obtained her Master of Arts and her Ph.D. from the University of Texas in Austin. As an example of Dr. D’s cerebral strength, her dissertation was on “John Donne and his coterie that was written, exchanged, and circulated in manuscripts. [She] focused on the dialogic, socio-political environment of manuscript transmission and the evidence of multiple, variant texts”. 

In defending her dissertation, she sought individuals who would put her through her paces. Dr. D recalls when “one member challenged me, referring to a passage ‘here on page 427’, which because I had known she would challenge it, I had carefully qualified with the word ‘might’. I pointed out the ‘might’ and she withdrew her challenge--a testament to the importance of careful qualification of arguments”. 

No doubt, her resume is impressive. She has worked at “The University of Texas, Austin; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Ridgefield High School, Connecticut, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York; United States Air Force Academy, and USAF Academy, Colorado”. How was she drawn to Maine? Dr. D said “When I was living in [Connecticut] in the early 2000s, I travelled to Maine and fell in love with the people and the place”. When asked how she decided to become a teacher, Dr. D states that “Women as well as men in my family have for generations been professors and teachers. For that reason I firmly declared at age 17 ‘God make me anything but a teacher’. Years later, I stepped into my first classroom and it felt like warm bath water. It was exactly where I wanted to be”. 

As for advice to students transitioning from high school to college, Dr. D said “My greatest concern for high school students is the academic work ethic”. She seems to suggest that students should take advantage of the WSHS resources, because “WSHS provides a great deal of support-FAR more than any college will”. 

She was born, raised and educated in Texas. Just like the sun often shines in the state of Texas, we are fortunate that Dr. D shares her sunny disposition and skills with WSHS.