Marilyn H. Fitzgerald was born in Danville, Illinois, in 1946, one of four daughters to career military parents. In her first 18 years she lived in California, Georgia, Okinawa, Japan, Virginia and Scotland. After graduating in 1968 from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in Lynchburg, Virginia, with a degree in political science and induction into Phi Beta Kappa, she settled in the Washington, DC, area, the home of America’s professional and trade associations. She worked for seven years at the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums) where she developed and managed the U.S. museum accreditation program.
In 1977 Ms. Fitzgerald began working at the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The PA profession was growing rapidly with optimistic leaders guiding it. The House of Delegates had just been established the year before and the Board of Directors systems and policies were beginning to take shape. Mrs. Fitzgerald was there to help mold and guide them. Only 20 states had PA legislation and regulations. AAPA had fewer than 3,000 members with a staff of 10 at the national office.
During her 35 year career with the Academy, Ms. Fitzgerald worked with the professional society on publications (publishing the first monthly newsletter, AAPA News); public education (producing the first PA public service announcement, brochures and press kits); membership recruitment and retention (increasing the membership rolls by 800%); membership services (establishing the Paragon Awards Program, the monthly PA Job Find employment service and the malpractice insurance program); and AAPA’s governing bodies and volunteers (managing the Board of Directors, committees and councils. the House of Delegates, Student Academy and constituent organizations).
Until her retirement in March 2012, she worked with 34 boards of directors, seven executive directors/executive vice presidents, hundreds of volunteers and fellow paid staff members. She participated in the growth and development of affiliated PA organizations (PAEA, the PA Foundation, the Society of PA History, ARC-PA, and NCCPA). She helped establish AAPA’s policies and procedures, many of which still guide the organization today. She lived the history of the PA profession.
On her retirement in 2012, the AAPA House of Delegates named her an honorary PA.
As a retiree, Ms. Fitzgerald is an active volunteer. In addition to being on the Board of Trustees of the PA History Society (2015-2017), she is a member of the Board of Directors of The Women’s Home, Arlington, Virginia. She supports the Model United Nations Program of her alma mater, Randolph College. She answers the White House Comment Line at the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence.
An avid photographer, Ms. Fitzgerald always has her camera with her to document everyday events and activities — concert going, field trips to Washington, DC and its historic suburban surroundings, and travels throughout the US and abroad. Ms. Fitzgerald has contributed many photographs to the PA History Society’s digital still image collection. She lives in McLean, Virginia with her husband, Michael. They are the parents of one grown son and grandparents of three grandsons.
This biography was written by students at Sullivan University PA Program with assistance of Ms. Fitzgerald and was submitted to the Society in May 2015. The photographs are courtesy of Ms. Fitzgerald and are included in the PA History Society’s digital still image collection.