Margaret Rushton

Live, Laugh, Play

One of the most common questions asked by children is, "Can you come out and play?" For most of us, by the time we reach our teenage years, that question is all but obsolete. However, for long-time Beaufort resident Margaret Rushton, it is still an important part of her dialogue. When she gets an idea, she will call her girlfriends and ask, "Do you want to go play?" That is also how she approaches the teachers she works with. She asks them to play with a new idea or a new project to test its feasibility.

Her passion for playing was stoked early in her career when she took a job as a play therapist in a children's hospital after receiving her master's degree in counseling from the University of Alabama. "My job was to empower children through playing. In the hospital environment, sick children were always being told what they couldn't do. My job allowed me to show them what they could do. I'll never forget this little African-American boy with big blue eyes. He had both Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell Anemia. I walked in to his room and introduced myself as the play therapist. 'You mean you ain't real?' he responded. I love that because I want people to always have some magic or wonderment in their lives."

Margaret did a beautiful job carrying this playfulness into her home as well. "I was a play therapist for my children too. Being a mom was my thing. We played all the time and I always had an art table up for them, but the most important thing we did was sit and have dinner together at night. Sometimes we would sit in each other's spots and role-play that person and what their day must have been like. The dinner table was an open-forum where any and all questions and discussions were accepted."

It is this open spirit of playfulness that has allowed Margaret to excel as a mother and as the Fine Arts Coordinator for Beaufort County School District. "I have never really been a 'career girl'. I got involved in the public schools by being an involved mother of three children." Even though her youngest child is now 22-years-old, Margaret is still making a difference in the schools.

As Fine Arts Coordinator, she works with all of the district's visual and performing arts teachers. She helps coordinate art programs and is a self-described community liaison - bringing in community resources to supplement and enhance art opportunities in the schools. "I'm not the artist. I see myself more like an agent or gallery owner. I connect people so that it works for everyone. I match kids with people in the community to enhance learning."

Recently, Margaret has introduced the national program, River of Words, to the schools in conjunction with Literacy Month. This exciting program combines art with the study of our natural, local environment, putting it at the center of learning poetry and art. "Art allows children to be contributors, not just consumers. It is a true way children can give back," Margaret exclaimed. She also sees and stresses the value in students learning about the environment they actually live in. "When children see how our local environment actually affects local people and local industries, it makes a real difference. It helps deepen the impact of having a sense of place. Your place helps define your identity and is somewhere you can always come back to," Margaret explained.

Live. Laugh. Play. Margaret certainly lives a serendipitous life - one filled with love, creativity, fun, and wonderment. She has a true gift of approaching life with zeal. "I just laugh at myself and it's all o.k. It's serendipity - you just put it out there and see what happens, take surprises as they come and don't be afraid of them. It's really the joy of not knowing and the fun of discovery. You just have to have faith in the goodness."

Up Close:

Family: Married 30 years to Dr. Francis Rushton, Three children Will, 27, Meggie, 25 and Seth, 22.
On Breaking the Rules: She asked her husband out on their first date. They worked at the same hospital and she had him paged to the playroom "stat" to ask him on a date! She also asked him to marry her while he was in Intensive Care.
Celebrity look-alike: Sally Fields - "I get that all the time!"
Favorite Dessert: BFF Jane Frederick's pound cake
Secret Wish: To have dinner with Pat Conroy at his house. "That would be the ultimate!"
Would love one last conversation with: Her father, William Doggett, who died very suddenly.
Claims to be: A duplicate of her mother, Mildred. "We have the same life - both went to a women's college, both married doctors, etc.
Secret of Success: "Having very wonderful and talented girlfriends!"