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Class of 1950 Cleary University graduate shares her career success story

“Everyone is so young, and the school is so big!” Ethel Harmala laughs as she scans the Chrysler Building lobby, observing the crowd gathered for Cleary Alumni Night. She was unaware that people were talking about and admiring the “lady in red,” the 1950 Cleary College graduate who was attending her first alumni networking event. Throughout the evening, Harmala – the lady in red – was surrounded by alumni, faculty and staff, all wanting to hear her story, which she was happy to share.

Harmala lived in a small town in the UP, north of Houghton. She wanted to be a nurse, but “I was a bit too squeamish for that profession,” she admits. Around that time, a brochure from Cleary College in Ypsilanti arrived in the mail. Harmala could enroll in the school’s medical secretary program. So, she ventured hours away from the only home she knew to her new home, where everyone was a stranger. Fortunately, the school found housing for her in a home close to campus that she shared with seven other Cleary College students who became her new-found friends.

“The program was four terms long, but I only completed three,” she reports. As a result, she earned a “regular” secretary certificate, she describes. Harmala took a job right after college at Providence Hospital on Grand Blvd in Detroit. Through the years, she worked her way up the career ranks, went back to college to work toward a bachelor’s degree – “I was one class short of getting my degree; I didn’t take a statistics class” – and at the age of 59, retired from Cottage Hospital in Grosse Pointe where she served as Director of Medical Records.

Today, she enjoys Florida in the winter, a cottage up north in the summer, and an independent living center in Howell in between seasons. Unknown to her, this 90+ year-old self-made woman is a Cleary icon! She represents the career opportunities Cleary offered to women more than 70 years ago and continues to offer to women who want to make a deep footprint in the business world.

Reflecting on her educational experience, Harmala notes, “Cleary was a stepping stone to a future full of opportunities for me.”

Author: ClearyU