"I'm not going to retire. People should not retire. It keeps me alive."

The face of a groundbreaker can be a familiar one. You may have sat next to her in class, perhaps eaten lunch together or maybe she ran the movie projector for one of your class films to help put herself through school. Meet Betty Stagg Nuovo '53 (education), groundbreaker.

Nuovo has followed the road less traveled since her Bucknell days. She was among the legislators who first legalized gay marriage in Vermont, tried to pass an Equal Rights Amendment and helped write the state's child support law.

Nuovo cites a trip around the world and living in India for eight months with her husband and two young children in the 1960s as a key inspiration. "It expanded my horizons, was different than anything I'd seen before, including the grinding poverty of the people," she says.

After her Bucknell graduation and teaching work, Nuovo became involved in the League of Women Voters, which ultimately led to a career change. She bypassed law school and read the law on her own, "like Lincoln," she says, with her husband's encouragement and the help of a mentor lawyer in Vermont. Nuovo passed the bar in 1974, then went on to open her own law practice the same day she took her oath. Among her fondest memories from her lawyering years is meeting President Jimmy Carter in 1979 with the Democratic delegation from Vermont. "I had breakfast in the Senate dining room, had rice and beef stew for lunch and I actually touched the president," Nuovo remembers.

While running her own law practice, Nuovo went on to win a seat in the Vermont Legislature, where she has been for 25 years now, with a brief four-year hiatus when she went back to work in her law practice. "The whole place was Republican," she explains, so she decided to shake things up and run. She hasn't stopped since. "I'm not going to retire. People should not retire," she says. "It keeps me alive."

Posted March 2013