Economics alumna Nora Wujcik is invested in education

Economics alumna Nora Wujcik is invested in education
Economics alumna Nora Wujcik follows the stock market daily from her home in Florida​.

Nora E. Wujcik ’70 B.A., ’73 M.A. faced quite a few obstacles on the path to earning a college degree, but she never gave up on her education. She originally enrolled at Wayne University—which would later become Wayne State University—in the early 1940s after graduating from Detroit Northwestern High School. But her time as a student was short because she needed to help support her widowed mother and four younger siblings.

Then known as Nora Evarian, she took a job with the U.S. Air Corps (today’s Air Force). As the armed services were cutting back at the end of World War II, Evarian went to work for the local architectural firm Pilafian and Montana—a job that inadvertently kept her connected to Wayne. The firm had won contracts to design and construct new buildings on the Wayne University campus. Evarian did all the typing and clerical work regarding the specifications for State Hall and Purdy Kresge Library.

In 1950, she married Joseph Wujcik. They had two children, Erick and Peggy. Joseph was an engineer who earned a good salary working for the automobile companies in Detroit. Nora was a saver from the beginning and also started investing in the stock market. After only eight years of marriage, the couple was able to rent out their house and live in Europe. They moved to Málaga, Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea and traveled throughout western Europe, visiting friends they met while abroad. 

Return to Wayne State
In 1966, a few years after moving back to the United States, Nora Wujcik returned to Wayne State as a 40-year-old freshman to study economics and rode the bus for more than an hour to get to campus. “I did a lot of studying on the bus,” Wujcik said. She was never very interested in the university’s social life because she was focused on her family. However, she did study with her friends in the brand new Student Center and enjoyed spending time in the libraries.

Wujcik worked hard in her economics classes, even when others questioned her being there. She was one of the earliest women to major in economics, and the chair of the department suggested that she might be better suited for psychology because of her gender. Wujcik was so upset that she took the wrong bus home that day. But anyone who doubted her abilities was soon proved wrong.

Wujcik excelled in the classroom, and many professors counted her among their best students. As a senior, she was admitted to the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honors society at a time when very few economics students were members. The department chair who had once suggested a different academic path for Wujcik wrote her a letter saying how proud he was of her. 

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Wujcik received a full scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in economics at Wayne State. She was recruited as a Ph.D. candidate by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan, but she declined because she wanted to stay in Detroit. Wujcik sought employment as an economist, applying to many local banks and even the Federal Reserve. “I tried very hard,” she said. Unfortunately, most financial institutions at the time would not hire a female economist.

Opportunity found
Despite this disappointment, Wujcik joined the American Association of Economists. The association regularly published job listings, and one day Wujcik saw an opening in Virginia’s community college system for an economics professor—an opening for which women could apply. She flew to Virginia for an interview and was pleasantly surprised when she stepped off the plane. “It was so beautiful and green and warmer than Michigan,” she recalled. Although Wujcik loved Michigan, she decided to take the job in Virginia and her husband supported her decision. He had already entered early retirement because of their prudent money management.

Wujcik became an assistant professor at Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) and an adjunct at Lynchburg College. She occasionally taught at other colleges in the area as well. At CVCC, she was the first person to ever teach banking and investments, and her classes on investments always were full. Still, Wujcik does not tell people what to do with their money. She said, “They have to learn for themselves.”

Giving back
These days Wujcik has moved to an even warmer climate in Naples, Florida. She keeps a daily routine of working out at the health club, reading the newspaper, doing puzzles and following the stock market. She remains committed to education and has included Wayne State University in her estate plans. Why? She appreciates that Wayne State was there for her. Both of her children attended Wayne State too. Most of all, Wujcik believes in the power of knowledge. She said that when it comes to giving, “Libraries and places of education are where your investment pays off.” And she knows a thing or two about investing.

(Posted May 8, 2014)

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