Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Alumnae Spotlight: Dr. Nancy Thornton

By: Kaleena Watts

Dr. Nancy Freebairn-Thornton has loved Girl Scouts since the day she joined as a bright-eyed second grader.  Now, over 50 years later, her love and commitment to the beloved sisterhood is evident in both word and deed, serving diligently and speak fondly of Girl Scouts at every opportunity.

It’s no wonder then, that both Dr. Thornton, a second-generation Girl Scout, and her mother were both recipients of Girl Scouting’s highest awards, the Curved Bar Award and Golden Eaglet. Now, Dr. Thornton proudly anticipates her daughter Wren earning the Gold Award, and joining what has now become a family tradition.

It can be said that Dr. Thornton has accomplished some pretty hefty feats throughout her life.  She attributes much of the values, principles, and skills that have helped her along the way to Girl Scouts.  In her opinion, Girl Scouts has helped her acquire the essential characteristics for becoming a success.  One experience in particular marks Dr. Thornton’s realization of this.  “I remember I was in the 4th grade, my troop leader pulled me to the side after our meeting and told me that I sold the most cookies in our troop,” she recalls.  Not only was she the top seller, but her contribution allowed her entire troop to take a much-anticipated trip.

Being fearless is another quality both Dr. Thornton and her mother share, and one she greatly believes Girl Scouts instilled in both of them.  Dr. Thornton still remembers one incident when her mother volunteered them both to teach macramé to a large group of Girl Scouts after an instructor became ill.  Mortified, Dr. Thornton recalls whispering “Mom, do you know how to do macramé?”  Her mom confidently replied, “No, but we’ll know by morning.”  Sure enough Dr. Thornton and her mother got a macramé book, stayed up late that night, learned macramé, and taught a class to over 200 Girl Scouts the next morning.

Those qualities, and a variety of others gained through her childhood experiences as a Girl Scout, were the catalyst to Dr. Thornton’s success in many future endeavors.  One such achievement that gives her a great sense of accomplishment is her service to the army, where after graduating from college, she became the only woman, among 125 men, to enter the Corps of Engineers.

Dr. Thornton also attributes her family’s belief in pursuing educational excellence to Girl Scouts.  Interestingly, It was a troop leader that aided Nancy’s mom, a first-generation college graduate, to apply and prepare for college.  As for her personal educational pursuits, Nancy has earned a bachelors degree from Arizona State University, entered into the Army Corps of Engineers, received her masters from the University of Oklahoma, and finally a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Dr. Thornton has instilled that commitment to education into her children, 7 her own, and over 36 of them foster children. Not surprisingly, education is a fundamental part of Nancy’s advice to young Girl Scouts today.  Dr. Thornton, in her own words encourages, “You want to get a good education, also pick someone that you’re comfortable with being your mentor, and then just hang in there, finish the program.”

Nancy stresses the importance of sticking with the program and gaining top Girl Scout honors as it pertains to future life endeavors.  Her Girl Scout Gold award was actually the deciding factor in a tie for a college scholarship that she received. “If you can finish your Gold Award it’s there forever, no one can take that away from you,” Dr. Thornton assets, “If you say to anybody, of any age, that ‘I’m a Gold Award,’ right there it establishes a credential that you’re trustworthy, reliable, and that you follow through.”

With all of the accomplishments, accolades, and valuable experiences Girl Scouts has provided Dr. Thornton with, she still recognizes simply the great fun Girl Scouts offers.