Published: Sept. 1, 2010 By

dora polkMaking a life of calm

A quiet life is the one preferred by Dora Beale Polk (MFA’50). After spending decades as a professor, writer and entrepreneur, the 87-year-old explains that a slower lifestyle may be better in the long run.

“I have always been my own boss,” Dora says, adding that teaching was “my favorite avocation as well as my vocation” although she’s had many others.  For much of her life, she was career-oriented and viewed teaching during the decline of humanities and the rise of the computer as a challenge.

Dora spent her early life in Wales. She attended Cardiff University during World War II, which, she states, was a time that is difficult to forget.  In the early 1940s when the women’s movement was just beginning, she took the opportunity to move to the United States and begin her career as a teacher at a small college in South Dakota.

CU was the next step in Dora’s life where she received her master’s degree in fine arts in 1950. While in Boulder, she assisted in running many Democratic political campaigns and also began writing. She penned adolescent romances but soon abandoned them to “take on more serious writing.” She wrote The Island of California (University of Nebraska Press), a book that delves into the fascinating myths that fueled settlers to explore California. While doing research for the book, Polk and her sister traveled to Great Britain every summer to do research in libraries. They also started an investment business and a drug company.

She received her doctorate in English at the University of California, Irvine and has written other literary works, including a recent book of poems, The Will (Orlandon Press), published as a record of her life. Her poems span many years and include personal and emotional stories, beliefs and opinions.

“Poetry deals with the element of choice and human conduct,” she explains.

Throughout her life, Dora has maintained a positive outlook on life. She is involved in local politics in El Segundo, Calif., where she lives with her sister. She likes observing the working-class lifestyle of El Segundo in comparison to surrounding beach towns like Santa Monica. She attended her 50-year class reunion on the Boulder campus in May.

While she enjoys her calm lifestyle in California, she says she is reminded daily of her childhood in Wales. Her Welsh background allowed her many of the wonderful opportunities she has fully embraced. As she speaks about her life, she says she has adopted the existentialist belief that life is mostly made by individual choice.

In the words of Dora, “You make your own life.”