Focus on Leadership

Marian Bergeson
Marian Crittenden Bergeson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1925. Soon after, her parents moved to California, and she grew up in Westwood with her parents, two younger sisters, and a brother. She remembers the depression and people coming to her house asking for food. Her family was lucky: her Dad had a job managing a service station.

Education was a priority for the Crittenden children. UCLA was just beginning and became the focus for future aspirations. In those days, there was little need or incentive for women to attend college; after all, their role was to get married and have children. During World War II, it was easy to get the jobs that servicemen had left behind, so Marian was able to earn enough to help pay her way through college. She attended UCLA for three years and graduated in Elementary Education from Brigham Young University. She holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Pepperdine University.

Marian taught in Santa Monica before moving to Newport Beach in l959, where she immediately became involved in community activities -- a new school library, children's theater guild, efforts to build a cultural center. This led to running successfully for the local elementary school board and then the newly unified Newport-Mesa School Board. She became known for her understanding of school finance and policy development and was elected by school board members to be President of the California School Boards Association.

An opening in the State Assembly in 1975 provided an opportunity to run for political office. Many felt it was not time for a woman to be in Sacramento, but persistence and hard fought grass roots campaigns proved them wrong, though it took two elections to make it happen. Marian immediately staked out her interests in education and became Vice-chair of Assembly Education Committee, a role generally not sought by Republicans. She became involved in significant issues dealing with teacher training, authoring such bills as BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) induction programs. She authored bills that provided for school facilities and served on the State Allocation Board.

Marian was elected to the State Senate in 1984. She remained active in education, serving on the Higher Education Budget subcommittee and also chairing the Senate Local Government Committee. She was the only Republican chairing a major policy committee in either the Assembly or the Senate.

Facing term limits in Sacramento, Marian ran unopposed to the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Just before being sworn in, the county declared bankruptcy, the first of its kind in the nation. Her legislative experience proved especially helpful in setting up the plan to get the county out of bankruptcy.

In 1996, Governor Pete Wilson asked if she would return to Sacramento to become his Secretary for Child Development and Education. It was to be a time of great change and Marian readily accepted the challenge. World Class Standards were developed, class sizes were reduced in the primary grades to assure mastery of basic schools, text books were re-aligned to standards, and teacher training institutions were challenged to adjust to the standards and new technology.

Governor Wilson recognized the need for coordination between the Administration and the State Board of Education in developing the curriculum framework and applications needed to assure that all children in California would have opportunities for educational excellence. Marian was appointed to the State Board to work on these issues and served as liaison to the Science framework. Completing her term, she returned to her home in Newport Beach. Recently, she was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to the California Transportation Commission, where she served as Chair in 2006-07.

Marian continues to serve on many Boards and Committees; Chair of the Great Park Conservancy, Education Chair KOCE, Education Chair Tiger Woods Learning Center, The MIND Research Institute, UCI DoE Chair's Advisory Board, UCI Foundation Ambassador. Center for the Study of Democracy.

In recognition of her governmental and charitable efforts over the years, she has received many awards, among them are:

  • UCI Medal of Honor in 2003
  • Celebration of Hope Award for the study of Huntington Disease 2002
  • National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) Humanitarian of the Year in 2000
  • Woman of the Year State Assembly in 1997
  • Lifetime Achievement from the State Senate in 1997
  • Hall of Fame Building Industry Association 1994
  • Liberty Bell Award, Orange County Bar Association 1989
  • Outstanding Citizen Award from Orange Coast College in 1992
  • UC Student Association Senator of the Year Award in 1987
  • Woman of the Year Award by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'brith in 1987

In 1994, the California Journal selected Marian Bergeson as the top Republican Senator overall and the top Republican Senator in terms of integrity, energy, and potential.

Marian Bergeson Elementary School in Laguna Niguel is named in her honor, as is the Marian Bergeson Aquatic Center at Corona del Mar High School. The annual tribute to an outstanding school board member is also named after her.

Marian married to Garth Bergeson. They have four adult children (one deceased) and 11 grandchildren.