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I'm a Bear

Marie L. Greenwood

May 02, 2017

Marie L. Greenwood ’35
Elementary Education


Born Nov. 24, 1912, Marie Greenwood is 104, and has been active all of her life. She has fond memories of Gunter Hall, and her favorite courses at Colorado State College of Education now UNC, were in physical education. When she graduated in 1935, Greenwood was only a few credits shy of earning a double major in P.E. Active all her life, Greenwood enjoyed alpine skiing well into her 70s.


After graduating, Greenwood became the first African-American teacher hired on contract directly by Denver Public Schools. She retired in 1972 after more than three decades working with Denver students.             


“I taught first grade for 30 years in the Denver Public Schools. I believe it is there that one lays the beginning of a sound education foundation upon which a child can continue to learn successfully.” In 2001 DPS honored Greenwood’s career of service by naming a school in her honor, the Marie L. Greenwood Academy.


“I believe that every child  can learn and that philosophy still matters, just the methods have changed.” Greenwood published her philosophy in her book Every Child Can Learn and chronicled her life experience in the autobiography By the Grace of God, which she published for her 100th birthday in 2012.


UNC awarded Greenwood an Honored Alumni Award in 1997 and invited her to deliver the commencement address in 2007. The Colorado State Board of Education honored her as  “A Trailblazer in Education for the Children of the State of Colorado” in February 2017.

Family Trendsetter

“I graduated when it was called Colorado State College of Education, my daughter from Colorado State College, and my son from the University of Northern Colorado.”

Hard Worker

Greenwood wears a simple chain necklace every day. From it hangs the ring of her late husband, Will, and the cross that her parents gave her upon graduating from junior high school. Greenwood’s family believed in the power of education and knew that with hard work Greenwood could earn a college education. “My father told me I could do anything and if I worked hard enough I could do it better.”


In 2009 Greenwood and her family established the Marie L. Greenwood Scholarship. The program provides an annual scholarship to a UNC first-year education major who graduates from Denver Public Schools, with a preference for students from her namesake school, Marie L. Greenwood Academy.