In Memory: Margaret Lippitt Rorison
Margaret Lippitt Rorison
BY WBM Staff
Margaret Lippitt Rorison, known to all as Peg, was born in Wilmington during the roaring ’20s, the time of Jazz Age flappers, when Lumina lit the night sky at Wrightsville Beach, the nation’s economy surged, and Prohibition reigned.
The eldest daughter of Harmon Chadbourn Rorison and Margaret Devereux (MarDev) Lippitt Rorison, she enjoyed adventures with her sister, Mary Ann, and her cousin and best friend, Devereux Haigh Lippitt. She was known to share stories of childhood antics in Wilmington, in the mountains around Linville, North Carolina, and in Savannah, Georgia.
Her education was robust. She attended National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Hollins College in Hollins, Virginia, in 1946. Described as a lifelong learner, she earned an MA at Columbia University (1956), a diploma from L’Alliance Française in Paris (1966) and did postgraduate work at the University of South Carolina.
Her career was varied and prosperous. After college, Peg moved to New York City, where she was hired at Scribner’s Bookstore after a fellow customer praised her skills to the manager. She worked as a market and editorial researcher at Time magazine from 1949 to 1955, then taught corrective reading in the New York City public school system in Harlem until 1965. In 1962 and 1963 she was also a TV instructor on New York City’s Channel 13. In 1965 she moved to Paris to spend two years studying, working and traveling through Europe and North Africa.
She settled in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1967, and began a doctorate in reading education and started the innovative and award-winning public television program Getting the Word, followed by Getting the Message.
These shows, which aired in at least eight states, helped students reading below grade level acquire and improve reading skills without shame or judgment. Columbia public school students used skits, music and peer instruction, with Peg as on-screen facilitator and behind-the-scenes writer and producer. She continued as an instructional specialist and reading consultant in Columbia through the early 1980s.
When her mother needed help with daily living, Peg moved home to Wilmington and took on a new role as caretaker. She eased MarDev’s last years and rapidly became an integral part of the Wilmington community.
She was an active member of St. James Parish, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, and the Ministering Circle, for which she administered scholarships for nursing students.
She served for decades on the Nurse Advocate Board of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and was instrumental in the success of the nationally ranked nursing program. In addition, she created five scholarships at UNCW in memory of family members.
One of her most influential volunteer roles was starting and running the Lower Cape Fear chapter of Plant A Row for the Hungry, encouraging gardeners and farmers to grow extra crops to help alleviate food insecurity. Peg distributed thousands of pounds of fresh produce and helped the program succeed.
In the 1990s, Peg continued her world travels. She was invited to tour China in 1993 as part of a Reading Education Delegation organized by People to People International. Other trips took her to Austria, Mexico, Russia and the Czech Republic.
Peg saw the good in everyone and helped bring out their best through her unfailing kindness, generosity, cheeriness and optimism. She was interested in almost everything, and was a sparkling source of light who passionately believed in everyone she knew. Her classmates at the Cathedral School nominated her as “most lovable” in 1942, and many she met during her long and well-lived life would agree.
A memorial service for Peg, who died peacefully on Jan. 10, 2023, will be held at St. James Episcopal Church in the spring.
What truly beautiful and beautifully written message, more a message than an obituary, for my beloved sister and best friend always, Peg Rorison
mary ann rorison caws
So lovely!! I feel like she should just jump out of that photo so I can give her a big hug. Thank you!!! Cece