Stevens – The Institute of Business & Arts is proud to be celebrating 75 years of serving the St. Louis Metropolitan Area this year. We got our start in 1947 as Patricia Stevens College – a modeling and finishing school for women. Over the years, we’ve evolved; adding degree programs, transitioning to a co-educational student body, and updating our course catalog to remain competitive with the needs of employers in the region.
To commemorate this milestone, we’re looking back and sharing the stories of alumni who have made us who we are today. We start with Merna Tucker-Davis who attended soon after Patricia Stevens opened it’s doors in St. Louis.
What year(s) did you attend Patricia Stevens?
I attended Patricia Stevens in 1955 while I was still a junior at Granite City High School. It was known then as a finishing school for young women, especially for those interested in becoming a model. My mother believed it would help build my confidence and grace so a friend and I traveled on the streetcar from Granite City to downtown St. Louis for after-school classes.
What was the nature of your classes?
The curriculum was a combination of modeling techniques, ways to maximize personal appearance, and teaching us how to be poised and “ladylike.” I particularly remember getting my eyebrows tweezed for the very first time and that getting noticed right away. As I entered the school cafeteria the next day, some boys yelled, “Look she plucked her eyebrows!” While embarrassing in the moment, it was definitely a positive improvement and became a permanent part of my beauty regimen!
Another memorable lesson was being told to always wear a girdle so that my derrière could not move, especially while going up and down the stairs! Boy how times have changed on that issue….
What lesson did you value most?
That taking the time to present myself in my most attractive, poised manner is worth the effort. Being poised gave me the self-confidence to put myself out there and try new things throughout my entire life.
Describe your education, accomplishments, and career after Patricia Stevens.
As I finished high school, I was able to apply the lessons and techniques I learned at Patricia Stevens on several occasions. In February 1956, when I was a senior, I was honored to be crowned the Queen of the St. Louis Area Junior Achievement at the annual Coronation Ball held at the Arena and attended by 3,000 Junior Achievers.
I also had the confidence to enter (and win) the Miss Granite City pageant in 1956, and later that year went on to participate in the Miss Illinois Pageant (I didn’t win, but it was a wonderful experience!).
After high school, I attended the University of Illinois and graduated in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Years later, I earned my Master’s degree in Human Relations at University of Oklahoma while I was teaching.
My 38-year career in education included many years of classroom teaching, but when I retired I was Director of the Gifted Program for the Granite City School District. At age 55, I entered the next phase of my life by starting my own interior design firm, INTERPRETATIONS, LLC, and worked on many residential and commercial projects in the bi-state region over the next 25+ years.
Although I’ve chosen to semi-retire from my second career, I stay active by continuing to provide consultations to former clients and I flex my creativity 4-5 times per year by designing and creating the seasonal floral and holiday installations on Siba’s Washington Avenue campus.
What advice would you offer current Siba students?
Surround yourself with professionals in the field of your choice. Continue to build your confidence and passion through continued knowledge and honorable hard work. Go to bed each night knowing you have utmost integrity as you are making the world a better place.