People You Should Know: Marilyn Bamash

A volunteer hospital clown started out as one of the first computer teachers in the School District of Philadelphia.

Marilyn Bamash (center) volunteers as a hospital clown at Lankenau Medical Center. | LUIS FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ / TTN
Marilyn Bamash (center) volunteers as a hospital clown at Lankenau Medical Center. | LUIS FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ / TTN

A Temple alumna and one of the first computer teachers in the School District of Philadelphia, Marilyn Bamash, has had a first-hand perspective through the development of technology.

Bamash first attended Holy Family College — now a university — but then discovered Temple’s media program. With a master’s degree in educational technology, Bamash was qualified to become a teacher in a brand new position.

Bamash was a pioneer of the computer-teaching department in Philadelphia, which she describes as the “stone age of computers” in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

She is now a volunteer clown at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pa., where she lifts the spirits of sick people and their loved ones.

The Temple News: When did you attend Temple and what was your major?

Marilyn Bamash: First of all, when I went to Temple my name was Marilyn Shore. I went to Temple from 1980 to 1985. I went to graduate school [and] majored in educational technology.

TTN: What was that program like? 

MB: Back in 1980, the personal computer was just coming out. I learned computing on the original Apple. So the program was basically computers, photography and just different forms of media. At that time it was called educational media and later it changed it to educational technology. If it still exists, I would have no idea what it would be called now.

Basically, it was what is now referred to as project-based learning — there was no such thing back then, but it was the forerunner to project-based learning. They were doing things with media and doing hands-on projects.

TTN: What kinds of projects would you work on?

MB: Well, it sounds really feeble at this point, but we would do slides with the tapes, we would make our own [transparencies] for an overhead projector and at this time that was really cutting edge. I also did what was called MultiImage, which was the precursor to PowerPoint, where we would do anything from three to six slide projectors and then a tape would synchronize with it for the [voice audio]. And then some advances, we had this thing called a Florox machine, which [produced] these super duper slides that would take maybe 20 hours to do one slide and now you could probably do it in an hour and a half on the computer. So this was all really free computer for the most part. Like I said, the original Apple in no way compares now to the technology we have today.

TTN: How did you run such a brand new program?

MB: Basically, at this time we had graduated to the Apple II. In the School District of Philadelphia, if you had this computer room, you could ask the school district — they had a license for all their software, called MECC — to put the programs on a 35-inch disc, which [most people] probably don’t even know ever existed. So we would do math programs, spelling programs and the kids could come into the computer lab and learn math, reading, spelling. Then there was a precursor to AppleWorks and Microsoft Word, which was called Fred Writer. That was when we first started teaching word processing. I mean, you are going back to the stone age of computers. And this program was really nothing like we have today.

TTN: How long did you teach in this field? 

MB: I taught computers from 1988 to 1990.

TTN: What did you do after that?

MB: OK, so this is where life gets really interesting. At this point, I taught gifted support, where the kids were really bright. So I had a classroom where I had one modem with one computer attached to it, and we could access the Internet on one computer. There was a program called Africa Quest — and I can’t remember how much it cost but it was expensive at the time — there was this team that went to Africa and we could dictate the direction we wanted them to go, we got all kinds of feedback, and we would all crowd around this computer and we would “chat” from this one computer. It was the only one hooked up to a phone line and a modem. Then I became what we call a facilitator…I had 13 to 15 schools in the Germantown area where I would go to the schools and help teachers implement computer programs into their classrooms because this was the point when it was becoming a real big deal.

TTN: So what do you do now?

MB: I am a volunteer with Bumper “T” Caring Clowns and this group goes into the hospital — I go into Lankenau [Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pa.] — and once again, I am a clown trainer and I am on the board of directors of the Caring Clowns. I do go into other hospitals to train, but basically [I service] Lankenau Hospital.

TTN: How did you get involved with that?

MB: I was in the waiting room waiting for my daughter to have surgery when a clown came in… and I had just finished teaching and I said to my husband, “That’s it, that’s what I’m going to do.” I became a Caring Clown right then and there. I called the number on the card [that the man had given me] and here I am.

TTN: What role do you play in the hospital? 

MB: I basically just go around to people in the waiting rooms, people in chemotherapy, radiation, oncology and the hospital rooms themselves and the people who are lonely, the people who are waiting anxiously for their loved ones to come out of surgery… I just kind of provide some light humor to get them through the day. I usually give them a smiley sticker and tell them to remember to smile because it’s a hard day. It’s not always fun, it can be very, very heavy and it can be…Well, some people are very glad for the company and some people just cry their hearts out.

TTN: Do you enjoy your job?

MB: I feel that I get a lot from it. I feel very fulfilled when I leave there, feeling like I’ve helped people to lift the burden, just for a few minutes. I can’t change the diagnosis, I certainly can’t change stage four cancer, but at least I give [them] a hug and I [tell them] that my thoughts and prayers are with [them]. So hopefully, that kind of [helps them] through the moment.

Nickee Plaksen can be reached at

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