Think about the one thing that has meant the most in your life by studying at Marietta College. Was it a professor or experience that changed the way you see yourself in the world, or was it a person you met at Marietta who has been a part of your life ever since?

For Marcia Lehmann Custer ‘74, it was the chance to study abroad during her junior year that opened her eyes to so many opportunities. Remembering all those people and moments she had as a student, she came up with a way to honor the place that changed her life and career trajectory — she created a bequest to help future students enjoy those same experiences.

Marcia Custer 1973
Left to right: IES study abroad friend; Dr. Margaret Ross, former Marietta College director of counseling; IES study abroad friend; Marcia Lehmann Custer ’74; and Dr. Darlene DeMarie ’74

“It’s not very tangible right now because I can’t see the beneficiary, but I do know that as we age, those of us who have been lucky enough to build a nest egg want to give to the charities that mean the most to us,” says Custer, who included Marietta College in her estate plan. “Even during their lifetime, many of us have IRA minimum distributions that could support those same passions that we developed when we were students.” 

Planned gifts — remembering Marietta College through an estate plan — ensure that the Marietta College of the future continues to provide top-notch educational opportunities and experiences to every student who chooses to join The Long Blue Line. 

“Marcia’s provision for our students in her estate plans is a testament to her commitment and belief in the mission and vision of Marietta College,” says Bethany McFarland Leslie ’12, Marietta’s Director of Major Gifts. “Just as her time abroad was transformative in her own educational experience, her future gift will provide these same life-changing global opportunities for future Pioneers.” 

After a conversation with then-Dean Merrill Patterson during her sophomore year, Custer was able to convince him that a year abroad in Vienna, Austria, would improve her grades and be an enriching experience. 

“There was so much travel and education – we immersed ourselves in history, art, music,” Custer says. “Psychology was my major and Vienna was the home of Sigmund Freud, so I took classes from a Freudian professor. It was a continuation of my liberal arts education; we’d go into the museums with the art history professor, we’d attend the opera with standing-room-only cheap tickets and I became a huge opera buff, and the institute put on a ball every year where they taught us to waltz. I took lessons, was paired with a fabulous partner, and we were selected to open the opera ball with a waltz — it was marvelous!” 

Grateful to have the year-long experience, Custer says it taught her to be independent and to really figure out who she was as a person. 

“One thing that was really memorable,” Custer says, “I took to the German language well, being so immersed, and during the break between fall and spring semesters, I met my relatives for the first time. We stayed in the home of one family and met many others over the course of the visit in this tiny Black Forest village. Since then, I’ve continued to study and speak German, so it’s been a life-long journey for me.” 

After graduating from Marietta, she worked in rural Georgia for a few months before attending Loyola College in Baltimore for counseling psychology, while also working for an Ohio senator. She worked for non-profits and in academia, and eventually founded her own business: Chesapeake Embroidery and Design, a light manufacturing business that stitched embroidered logos and designs on apparel and fabric. She became certified as a woman-owned business and ran the company for 12 years before selling it. 

“I’m truly a ‘liberal careerist’ and it was the liberal arts education that inspired me,” Custer says. “Why do the same thing for the rest of your life?” 

She decided to revamp her estate plans in 2021 during the pandemic, choosing Marietta as one of her beneficiaries in order to support students who need scholarship assistance to study in Vienna. 

“By completing a simple beneficiary designation form through her financial advisor and sharing her intentions with Marietta’s Advancement team, Marcia is creating a lasting legacy at the College that will allow her to continue to make an impact for many years to come,” Leslie says. 

Today, she is working part-time in a premier visual and performing arts organization in Naples, Florida.  She also volunteers with homeless and impoverished Naples families through St. Vincent de Paul. She feels good to be able to include her alma mater in her estate plans, especially since Marietta played an important role in developing her life’s passions and career success. 

“Marietta College was instrumental in my growth and development for four years,” Custer says. “How could I not invest in future students who share my passion for study abroad?” 

Alumni interested in learning more about planned gifts can connect with Bethany Leslie though email at or by phone at 740-376-4402.