The UNM Foundation: Our Stories of Impact

One More Service

Marjorie Wightman served her country in both World War II and the Korean War, and now helps veterans attend her alma mater

Born April 29, 1921, in Detroit, Michigan, Marjorie “Marge” Wightman was a member of the Greatest Generation, serving her country proudly and honorably. Marge first took up the fight during World War II, enlisted in the Army, attended OCS training, and received her commission as a first lieutenant. You may imagine her in the spirit of Rosie the Riveter, taking an important factory role or other industry position. Or volunteering as part of the Red Cross. But what you likely aren’t conjuring is an image of a woman in military uniform. 

Wightman was one of a small contingent of women in the military at the time, serving in both the European and Pacific theaters. “One of her major duties was making sure the wounded ended up being transported to the proper hospital,” says friend Karen Johnson Butler. “And that they would be put on the track they needed to be on.” She impressed her superiors early on to the point where she was made an officer. She was very proud of her military days. 

She shared that pride for veteran students as well. Therefore, when she passed away at the age of 98, she left a generous bequest gift earmarked to help them pay for their education. 

“Marge herself got to go to college with the help of the GI Bill,” says Johnson Butler. “And it was a wonderful twist of fate where she ended up. On a road trip with her friends, they had an overnight stay in Albuquerque, and Marge decided to go off on her own and look around. But she didn’t have a car. Someone working at the hotel said why don’t you take a walk to The University of New Mexico. It’s just down the road.” 

And that would start her on a whole other path. She made her visit a long one, taken by the beauty of the campus and the positive feeling of the school. Wightman would graduate with her bachelor’s degree from UNM in Arts and Sciences in 1949 and, despite other aspirations, would answer the country’s call again during the Korean War. Eventually she would retire a captain. 

Wightman’s commitment to education was lifelong. Later receiving a master’s degree in Journalism at State University of Iowa in 1954, she worked for the University of Texas in their communications division and later as Communications Director for the Texas Education Agency for Dr. J.W. Edgar, Commissioner of Education, and later for other commissioners. 

Karen Johnson Butler and Marge worked at the Texas Education Agency at overlapping times but became friends years later when they lived in the same neighborhood in Austin, Texas. “My husband and I were so lucky to know her,” Johnson Butler says. “She even kept that sense of adventure in her later years, traveling to so many places with Elder Hostel. Well into her 90s, in fact.” 

Wightman kept a deep affection for The University of New Mexico, and it is very fitting to her spirit that she will keep on helping others through her gift. “Marge really was a terrific example of the Greatest Generation,” Johnson Butler says. “If there was something that needed to get done, she would do it. If someone needed her help, she was there for them.”

Stories of ImpactOne More Service