Stepping Up to Lead

Wife-and-husband team gives its all to alma mater

As her late-morning class wrapped up for the day, Anne Marie Thompson Steen ’83 and her friends let their thoughts wander from political science to a more pressing topic: lunch. As usual, though, a classmate’s last-minute questions would keep them from Seacobeck.

Anne found her future husband, the ever-inquisitive Daniel K. Steen ’84, “annoying” back then.

Anne Marie Thompson Steen '83 (left) and husband Daniel K. Steen '84

Anne Marie Thompson Steen ’83 (left) and husband Daniel K. Steen ’84

But the 1981 student government elections would bring change to the undergrads, both political and personal. Working together – Anne, a junior, as vice president; Dan, a sophomore, as lobby chairman – they became friends. Three decades later, with the lessons they learned in college polished by lives and careers, the Steens are poised to push UMW even further.

“I get excited about it,” Dan said of the Mary Washington First campaign, which the Steens are chairing. “Mary Washington made a tremendous difference in our lives and the lives of so many friends. Anne and I are passionate about what the university has to offer.”

What Mary Washington offered in the early ’80s was a start. Dan, a political science and history major, was set on practicing law. Anne, who majored in economics and built a career in higher education, tested the waters, taking everything from organic chemistry to philosophy.

“Mary Washington is a terrific laboratory,” she said. “I experimented my entire time there.”

She and Dan were leaders on campus, often paving the way for each other’s successes. Anne was Student Association president one year; Dan held the title the next. Anne was the first student representative on the Mary Washington Board of Visitors (BOV); Dan, who helped establish the position, was second. Anne spoke at President Prince Woodard’s memorial service; Dan spoke at President Bill Anderson’s inauguration.

After a Randolph Hall break-in, the late professor Ray Merchent gave Anne and her hall mates this advice: You can gripe about problems, or you can fix them. Anne chose the latter and focused on campus safety.

Dan was the voice of the students in Richmond, their advocate in everything from mandating residence hall smoke detectors to setting the 21-year-old drinking age.

“He’s a dog on a bone when he gets something going,” Anne said of his volunteer work. “Watching his level of commitment, you would’ve thought he was getting paid to do the job.”

Supported by beloved Mary Washington professors and administrators, Anne and Dan developed leadership skills.

There’s a certain energy at Mary Washington. We’re fortunate that it’s something that we’re involved in and committed to together. – Anne Marie Thompson Steen

Though she set him up with some of her girlfriends, something else was developing, too.

Classmate Scott Harris ’83 , now director of UMW’s James Monroe Museum, remembers telling Anne that Dan really liked her. “Quit hemming and hawing,” Harris said, “and let’s just get on with it.”

Halfway through Anne’s senior year, Dan asked her out. They married in 1987, surrounded by former classmates and faculty.

They make their home in Arlington, Va., where they have raised two children. Dan earned a law degree from the University of Virginia and is vice president of global government affairs for international glass manufacturer Owens-Illinois. Anne, who has a master’s degree in counselor education from U.Va., is director of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service career center.

“From the beginning, we were very much a Mary Washington couple,” said Dan, who served two terms on the BOV, one term as rector.

If it concerns their alma mater – from recruiting to reunion, from the Alumni Association to the Mary Washington First campaign – the Steens are all in.

“There’s a certain energy at Mary Washington. We’re fortunate that it’s something that we’re involved in and committed to together.”

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