Steps Issue No. 123,
15:30 PM

Alumni Overcame Obstacles Thanks to Scholarship Support

By Margaret Chantung

Marsha Gable ('98) and Megan Hamreus ('99) both remember when CSUSM was a much smaller university with only three buildings: Academic Hall, Craven Hall and Science Hall. Although they didn’t know each other in the mid-1990s when they attended the fledgling campus, they were both determined to overcome personal hardship and succeed, crediting scholarship support with providing the extra boost to achieve their academic and career goals.

One Student's Struggle Inspires Many Others

I was a re-entry student,” said Marsha. “When I started Cal State San Marcos 20 years ago, I was broke, unemployed and scared. Students in the classroom were younger than me and I hadn’t been in school for a very long time.”

Struggling financially and academically, Marsha realized that she needed to ask for help.“I pulled myself up, got connected and got more support,” she reflected. “Quitting wasn’t an option.”Marsha applied for the Ina Mae Akinson Scholarship, established by Marie Bradley in honor of her grandmother.

The scholarship, which provides funds to female students who are at least 30 years old and have experienced an interruption in their education, has the unique distinction of being the very first scholarship created at CSUSM in 1988 when the institution was not yet its own campus.

“I started setting goals and, most importantly, I believed in myself becauseMarie Bradley believed in me enough to provide me with a scholarship,” Marsha said.

Today Marsha not only has her bachelor’s degree from CSUSM but also went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in educational leadership. As the dean of Counseling Services at Cuyamaca College she now inspires and helps other students achieve their educational and career goals.

“It’s been such a pleasure to see Marsha and realize that because of a small thing I did, she was able to achieve so much success," said Marie. "I am so proud of her."

Dreaming of Becoming a Doctor

Megan remembers parking in the dirt parking lot where the parking structure now stands and hiking all the way over to Science Hall for chemistry classes.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school until I was 35 and a single mom,” she reflected, but she was determined to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

She recalls a poignant moment when, only a few weeks into her academic career at Palomar before transferring to CSUSM, the door of academic opportunity seemed to be closing.

“I flunked my very first algebra test,” Megan said. “I was in tears in my advisor’s office—how was I going to get to medical school if I didn’t even know what an integer was?”

But similar to Marsha, Megan refused to give up. Eventually she transferred to CSUSM, got connected with resources across campus—including tutoring centers—and passed all of her hardest courses with flying colors. And, because she was also struggling financially, she applied for—and won—the Jean and W. Keith Kellogg Scholarship.

“Being selected out of a group of stellar applicants and being told, ‘we think you can hang in there, graduate and do well in your life,’ was so inspiring,” she said. “It really gave me that energy to persevere, keep studying and try my hardest.”

From that point on Megan was sailing. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Science in chemistry, went on to Des Moines University for medical school and completed her residency through UCLA.

Today she is the chief of family medicine for Scripps Mercy Hospital’s San Diego and Chula Vista campuses. In addition, she’s the medical director of a 24-physician medical group at Scripps Mercy Hospital, serves on the faculty for adult medicine wards at Family Health Centers of San Diego, and is a clinical preceptor for Georgetown University at Scripps Mercy Hospital.

“I believe that knowledge is the most powerful vehicle there is,” she said. “We are able to transport from one station in life to another through education—and that’s what this university is all about.”

To learn how you can make a difference in the lives of current CSUSM students so that they may become our region’s future leaders and change-makers like Marsha and Megan, contact University Advancement at 760-750-4400 or visit