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Anna G. Larson, Published June 01 2013

Women of Influence: Bailly stresses importance of mentorship

“Women of Influence” is an ongoing series exploring the women in our community who have the most impact and influence. Each profile will explore a different element of influence and redefine what it means.

FARGO - In some ways, Margie Bailly has become her mother.

Bailly, who is known for her work with the Fargo Theatre, says her mother, Jean Megorden Carlson, was a “strong community activist” and one of her earliest mentors.

In Bailly’s hometown of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Jean organized community concert series, developed funding for the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra, trained Girl Scout leaders and was a champion golfer. She kept herself busy and was involved in her community – not unlike Bailly.

“She (Jean) didn’t have the apron, she was just so unique,” Bailly, 67, says. “For a teenager, that’s kind of hard because your mother is supposed to be like everyone else’s mother. Now I realize that I was watching her affect change in the community, and that became a really strong core value for me.”

Since moving here in 1976 with her husband, Dick, Bailly’s been involved in the local community, particularly in the revitalization of downtown Fargo. She’s helped secure funding for various projects and organizations, like the Fargo Theatre, and she started “Art Night” at elementary schools in the ’80s. She says anything involving the arts and children gets her attention.

Bailly’s passion for community and mentoring stems from her mother and two piano teachers, Mrs. Pixley and Miss Anders, she says.

Bailly remembers walking to Mrs. Pixley’s house early in the morning to sneak in extra piano lessons. She says Mrs. Pixley pushed her to broaden her skill set and boosted her confidence.

“She believed in me so strongly, it was just amazing,” Bailly says. “The power of someone believing in you is really extraordinary.”

Bailly experienced the power of belief many other times in her life when she was fundraising for organizations. In 1986, she wanted the 1,200 children involved with the Holiday Clearing Bureau to get one of Dayton’s Santa Bears for Christmas. Bailly met with Jim Eddie of Dayton’s, and he declined to donate since it was the first year of the Santa Bear. Weeks later, Eddie changed his mind and called Bailly to say a truckload of Santa Bears were on its way.

“When someone believes in you and your project, and believes that you’re doing it for the right reasons…it keeps you going,” Margie says.

Because she’s felt its effects in her own life, Bailly says it’s important to mentor young people, especially young women.

“I think it’s really important to let go and let young women fly and, not to be trite, but to really let them be all that they can be and watch them blossom,” she says. “We, in my generation, have a responsibility to do that. It’s still tough. Women are still not reaching their full potential, collectively and individually.”

She says mentoring can be as simple as writing someone a note to let them know they’re doing a good job and being there to support them whenever they need it.

“You have to be consistent and always there, as opposed to just being there when it feels comfortable or right or when you have time. It’s sort of the relentless pursuit of being available,” she says.

Emily Beck, executive director of the Fargo Theatre, says Bailly took her under her wing when she started at the theater in 2008. The two women immediately became friends, bonding over film and books.

“She’s been a great role model for me,” Beck says. “We’re both really passionate about the arts. Movies were our jumping off point.”

Beck was especially grateful for Bailly’s mentorship when she became executive director in 2011, after Bailly retired.

Beck says she was, at first, intimidated by the fundraising aspects of the job and attempting to “fill Margie’s shoes,” but Bailly encouraged her to show her passion for the theater and to be herself.

“People consistently introduce me as ‘the new Margie,’ and I always correct them. I can’t be the new Margie. There isn’t going to be another Margie Bailly. She helped me embrace that,” Beck says. “She helped give me that confidence.”

She says Bailly also taught her to pause and reflect before reacting to any situation and to weave grace and humor into her daily actions.

“She has this effortless grace with the way she handles situations,” Beck says. “She’s definitely that voice in my head saying just give it a minute and think on it.”

Bailly hopes she’s taught Beck to “relentlessly pursue” the projects she’s involved in and to keep joy in her life.

“She’ll always be a really close and dear friend. That’s kind of a key too – to not set a pedestal up of being a mentor and showing you ‘the way and the light.’ It’s more about being a sounding board,” Bailly says. “I think that’s really what mentoring is and that’s what parenting is. They’re very similar.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525