Like her namesake from The Wizard of Oz Dorothy Fleming has discovered that “there’s no place like home." “Home” for Fleming is Milton – it’s where she lives and where she works.
After trial and error in a variety of jobs that felt anything but comfortable, Fleming finally found the right fit as Senior Lecturer in the English department at .
“I enjoy teaching the students at Curry. They are fun and open-minded, and my colleagues are terrific. My goal is to create a nurturing setting where students learn to perfect the essay form of writing and the basics of the dreaded research paper. I also try to eliminate the fear of writing,” says Fleming.
When reflecting on her career, Fleming stresses the importance of identifying – and living by – your core beliefs and values. “The key lesson that I’ve learned is that’s it’s essential to identify the elements that are important to you in a job – and to make sure that these are met. Otherwise, you’ll be unhappy, and you won’t be true to yourself,” says Fleming.
For Fleming, those elements include a sense of autonomy, feeling like your own boss, and congenial colleagues. She thrives when she likes the people with whom she works – including her bosses. “I’ve been in some work situations that were toxic for me, and I had to leave. I needed a break from the stress,” says Fleming.
Fleming’s first job after graduating from Emmanuel College was teaching in a public school on the South Shore. After three years in the classroom, Fleming enrolled in a master’s degree program in journalism at the University of Southern California.
Although there are many educators in Fleming’s family, she decided to resist going back into the classroom. Eager to use her new writing credentials, Fleming worked as a copywriter for two ad agencies in Boston – one large and one small. Neither employer was a good fit.
"Having the wrong job was like wearing someone else's wet bathing suit two sizes too small," says Fleming.
Fleming’s resume also included a stint working in Senator John Kerry’s Boston office. “I loved that job because it was exciting to organize upscale fund-raising events,” says Fleming.
When Kerry’s Boston office closed, Fleming was offered a position working for the City of Boston. “I got caught in the political crossfire; this was not a benign environment for me,” says Fleming.
It was Fleming’s husband Mike who saw a tiny ad in the Boston Sunday Globe for an English professor at Curry College. After applying for the position, Fleming called the then head of the English department to follow-up. Fleming was able to persuade him to interview her, even though he admitted that he had misplaced her resume.
“I was able to truly be myself in the interview,” says Fleming, “and as soon as I got on the Curry campus, I felt as if I had ‘come home.'"
Fleming has been at Curry ever since, with the exception of a half-year sabbatical to write a book about her father, and the thousands of people whose lives he had touched. Fleming’s late father, Jim Walsh, had been a recovering alcoholic whose passion for helping other addicts also became his career.
After serving as a sponsor to many in AA – Fleming remembers some men detoxing in the basement of her childhood home – Walsh returned to school to become a nurse. Fleming used her Dad’s notes as the basis of her book, The Courage to Change.
“He saved my life” was a refrain that Fleming heard often as she was doing research for her book. “I could feel his optimism and positive attitude in every page of his notebook. Writing and researching the book was a pleasure for me. The Milton Writer's Group – of which I’ve been a member for many years - was instrumental in giving feedback and insight. Now I’m facing the hard part – finding a publisher,” says Fleming.