20 Questions

Marilyn Moran Townsend

By Bonnie Blackburn
She came to Fort Wayne with her husband Bill to anchor WKJG’s late evening news back in 1977. Since then, she’s led a dizzying array of projects to improve Fort Wayne and the lives of Hoosiers: Invent Tomorrow. Leadership Fort Wayne. United Way. Fort Wayne Women Business Owners Association. The YWCA. The Indiana Economic Development Council. The owner of CVC Communications since 1983, she tells the stories of businesses and community groups. Find out what drives her as we play 20 Questions.


Why storytelling?
The stories we most remember have so much to do with who we are. I had a history teacher who made us memorize dates and battles and he made history boring. Then I had a history teacher who told stories of heroes and villains and those I remembered. That showed me the power of storytelling.

Telling stories is ultimately telling about people. What intrigues you?
I love learning how people tick, what drives them.

Many would argue that you were very prescient in getting into video when you did. What would you say to yourself if you could go back to 1982?
You think about the saying, “If I knew then what I know now I never would have done it.” I wouldn’t do that. The journey has been wonderful and is still a journey.

You’re now the chair of the Indiana Commission on Higher Education. Is higher education for everyone?
Continuing education is for everyone. Lifelong education is for everyone. Learning is never done.

You are incredibly active on boards and doing volunteer work. Where do you find the time?
I work to feed my civic habit. My earliest childhood memories are of my parents, Jasmine and Melvin Moran, taking us to civic (events).

Where do you get your energy?
That’s God-given. I feel blessed I have a lot of energy. I don’t need a lot of sleep, usually about four to five hours night.

You work with your husband, Bill Townsend. How do you make it work?
Identify your separation between   home and work. Bill and I have tried really hard to … separate our business and home life. If all you talk about is work, then it’s really boring and it’s a stress creator.

Where do you get your entrepreneurial spirit?
My father and grandfather. My grandfather came to America when he was 17 years old from Latvia and landed in Muncie for a time. He sold colored thread on the street and he was color-blind! He headed to Oklahoma for the oil boom and sold refurbished pipes. Then he started investing in oil. He died a millionaire several times over. My father took over the business and turned it more toward investments. I do ask my dad for guidance. He’s been a wonderful mentor and so wise.

You founded a company when there weren’t a lot of female heads of companies. Did you experience “she has to work twice as hard to be thought half as good as a man”?
Generally not. In the beginning, it was easy to address anyone. Because my partner was my spouse, we could segregate the business. Then we founded the Fort Wayne Women Business Owners association. We knew there had to be more women out there who were essentially being called on to do everything … and we went from four (female business owners) to 400.

What challenges do women still face?
We hear time to time about women not having an equal opportunity. And women still certainly make less. But there are many more opportunities for women today.

If you could wave a magic wand and end a societal ill, what would it be?
Domestic violence. It is much more prevalent than most people realize. That’s why I’m active on the YWCA’s Circle of Women (the fundraising arm for the YWCA’s domestic violence programs).

What kind of a student were you?
Teacher’s pet!

I understand you’re left-handed. How does that influence your thinking?
I am. Left-handers tend to be more “whole brain” thinkers, more creative thinkers. They’re better at problem solving because they’ve had to be. I’m left-handed in eating and writing. Everything else I do right-handed.

What does “servant leadership” mean?
“What can I do for you?” None of us can do everything well by ourselves, so the best thing any of us can do is be successful in our common causes.

Who have been your role models?
Ian (Rolland) was a huge mentor for me. I owe so much to him. I appreciate his almost dogged commitment to an ideal or principle, even if it wasn’t popular. Mac Parker, who has accomplished so many wonderful things in this community for which he takes no credit. Irene Walters, who is so involved in really every aspect of the community and does it wonderfully. You know you can count on her. And (the late) Patty Martone. I just adored Patty’s positive, upbeat and can-do attitude. She always had such wise words.

You’ve been named an “Individual of Integrity.” How important is it to you?
It’s everything. We don’t have an employee handbook here. We have only one rule: whatever you do, do it with integrity. When you only sleep four hours a night, you don’t want to  be lying awake thinking about what  you’ve done wrong.

When are you the happiest?
I am the happiest with my husband and kids and grandchildren. I have a wonderful family. And I’m happy and really engaged at work. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, as the saying goes.

What’s something people don’t know about you?
A lot of people don’t know I grew up Jewish. My dad is Jewish and my mother is Episcopalian. My dad built the Jewish synagogue in Seminole, Okla. When Bill and I married, we had a Jewish wedding.

A lot of your work is about motivating people. What motivates you?
I’ve had five near-death experiences in planes and one near-death medical experience. God has left me here to  do something with my life. It’s like the John Wesley prayer: “Let me never live to be useless.”

What are your blessings and gifts?
I have too many to name. I’m blessed to live in this nation. I’m blessed to be able to work. I’m blessed to have an amazing husband and wonderful children and grandchildren. I’m blessed to live in a city and a state that   supports entrepreneurship.

Posted: Thu, 08/30/2012 - 11:57 am
Last updated: Fri, 11/02/2012 - 2:12 pm