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Utah's First Female Governor

Olene Walker

Olene Walker was Utah’s 15th and, to date, only female governor. Prior to becoming governor she served as lieutenant governor for 10 years and as a member of the legislature, including a term as majority whip. Her experience of service and leadership is extensive in the state as well as the nation, including areas such as community development, the arts, and education. Among her impressive honors and awards are the Brigham Young University Outstanding Graduate Award and Utah’s 2005 Person of the Year.

Olene recalls her education experience:

"I was fortunate to be born into a family in which both parents were educators. My father was a principal and then superintendent of Ogden School District, and my mother was a teacher. I had three brothers who were near my age and a sister almost 16 years younger. Our family believed the girls needed a college education as well as the boys, though in the 1930s and ’40s that was not always the case. I was never asked if I was going to college—only where.

"While I had many outstanding teachers, my favorite was a fourth-grade teacher, Charlotte McGrath, who made every student feel loved and important. In addition to the basic curriculum, she taught critical ethical values. I recall that one day, during the lunch hour, two friends and I went to a small store to buy some penny candy. As we went out the door to return to the school, we saw an elderly woman struggling with two large bags of groceries. We offered to carry them to her home. After delivering the groceries, we hurried back to our classroom to tell Mrs. McGrath about the good deed we had done. She asked us if the woman had paid us. We told her that she had given us each a nickel.

"Mrs. McGrath replied, 'I want you to know that carrying the bags of groceries was of great service, but if you were paid to do it, it wasn’t service, it was work. True service is when you give of yourself to help others, not to earn money.'

"In the fifth grade I had a teacher who was ready to retire. When we returned to school after Thanksgiving, we discovered he had retired, and our strict but wonderful Mrs. Charlotte McGrath would be our teacher the remainder of the school year. It was a joyous day for the entire class."