Marilou Watson, a 1991 Temple graduate, was recently appointed chair of the Montgomery Bar Association’s Diversity Committee.
But Watson said she’s come a long way to get where she is today.
“I ran up against my share of brick walls, but I refused to give up,” Watson said.
Watson was raised by a single mother of four in West Philadelphia, where finances were tight, but her mother always stressed the importance of higher education for her children, she said.
Now, Watson wants to share the same message with others. In 2013, she created the Day in Court program, which gives local high school students the opportunity to observe court proceedings, explore a career in law and learn about the functions of the judicial system. The Day in Court program affords students the opportunity to meet legal figures like judges, investigators and the public defender.
This year, the program took place on April 13. Fifty students from Cheltenham High School attended. Last year, 95 students from Lower Merion High School attended the event.
Watson also works as a patent practitioner – she practices law in regard to the patenting process of the medical industry. As an undergraduate at Temple, she attained a degree in biology. She continued at Temple with pharmacy, and she went on to law school at Villanova. Her career is a unique intersection of pharmacy and law, she said.
She has received numerous awards that acknowledge her successes, like the Temple’s Gallery of Success Award in 2010 and the Minority Business Leader Award in 2014, as presented by the Philadelphia Business Journal. In 2013, she delivered the commencement address at Temple’s School of Pharmacy.
Watson said she praises Temple for the opportunities it provided her. Dr. Peter Doukas, now the dean of the School of Pharmacy at Temple, instructed a course Watson took as a pharmacy student: Medicinal Chemistry.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the class, so much that I took his advanced medicinal chemistry class,” Watson said. “He made that class so interesting.”
Doukas said he acclaims Watson for her determination and scholarship as a student at the pharmacy school.
“She exhibited a singular maturity about her studies and was able to balance the expectations of a demanding academic program with an intense work schedule outside of school,” Doukas said. “She was, and still is, a model of focused energy and commitment to a worthy outcome for herself and for others.”
Watson said faculty members like Doukas made her experience at Temple fulfilling.
“Indeed, she was and is the Temple mission made manifest, overcoming obstacles to create a better future for herself as well as others who come within her orbit of activity,” Doukas said.
Watson said she always admired Temple for its proximity to her home and for its reputation, so she pursued it. Even though her mother was working two jobs, her family did not have the funds to send her to college, but a conversation with the financial aid office at Temple changed that, Watson said.
“I distinctly remember having a conversation with someone in the financial aid department,” Watson said. “She asked me, had I ever heard of the Russell Conwell program, and I had not.”
She said she applied for the program and became a Russell Conwell student – her tuition fees were completely covered.
“That moment was really a pivotal moment in my life and, frankly, a game changer,” Watson said.
“[Temple is] like a family, it’s not just an institution,” Watson said.
Finnian Saylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.