Photos and video of this event as well as copies of the program and a transcript of Sister Iswari’s remarks are below.
This year’s Founders Reception and Induction of Merna Brown/Sri Mrinalini Mata into our Hall of Fame was a bit magical due to so many factors; it’s hard to list them all.
First, we had several alumni come to the reception who either had never been before or who hadn’t been back in a long time. That in itself is very special as we deeply appreciate our senior alumni and would like everyone to come back as often as possible to share their memories with us.
Then we had more than one alum show up from the Class of 1940 for the first time in a couple of years: Roy Combs took his rightful place next to fellow ’40 classmate Mary Arballo Magaña, giving the two of them the honor of being the most senior alumni present at the Founders Reception. We are SO GLAD Mr. Combs and Mrs. Magaña could enjoy the day with us!
On top of that we also had a good-sized group of 1940s and 1950s attendees who, frankly, got a little rowdy! What a blast they are! Alumni from the 1940s and 1950s are AWESOME.
And then Joyce Darby Tighe, one of the members of the Class of 1949, caused a bit of a stir when she was revealed to be best friends in high school with Hall of Fame inductee Merna Brown, the girl who was given the name “Mrinalini” by Paramahansa Yogananda and who would later become known and beloved worldwide as the fourth president of the Self Realization Fellowship.
Mrs. Tighe brought her 1949 Hoofprint with her, which generated even more excitement because it held a beautiful sentiment written by Merna to Joyce and everyone wanted to read it.
When Sister Iswari and Sister Sarala of the Self Realization Fellowship arrived they were delighted to meet Mrs. Tighe, as they knew of her from Sri Mrinalini Mata’s recollections of her high school days.
Sister Iswari told Mrs. Tighe that Mrinalini Mata had spoken fondly of Joyce, and that in reading what Merna had written when she was such a young adult, they got a glimpse of the girl who was to become the spiritual leader of the Self Realization Fellowship.
Then it was time for the Hall of Fame ceremony to begin. City Council person Tony Kranz started things off by reading a proclamation from City of Encinitas declaring this a special day on behalf of Sri Mrinalini Mata.
Ken Harrison (’73) then introduced Sister Iswari and Sister Sarala, who accepted the Hall of Fame award on behalf of Mrinalini Mata.
After that, Sister Iswari recalled many conversations in which Sri Mrinalini reminisced about her high school days at San Dieguito. She spoke often about one of her favorite teachers, Mr. Gerald Jordan, who she felt had prepared her fully for the editing work she was to do in the SRF.
In her first class with Mr. Jordan he gave the students an aptitude test. After class, Mr. Jordan took Merna/Mrinalini aside and told her she was too smart for the class she was in. He offered to give her more advanced work in an area of her choosing.
Merna/Mrinalini chose to study Shakespeare (with encouragement from Paramahansa Yogananda), and she spent many hours in the San Dieguito Library researching and studying Shakespeare for her assignments from Mr. Jordan.
Another story Sister Iswari told the crowd was about the day she and Sri Mrinalini made a stealth visit to San Dieguito two years ago, a visit that was sparked by an issue of our alumni newsletter.
“This particular newsletter had a writeup about Mr. Jordan … and it also said that there were memorial bricks and that two of them had been dedicated to Mr. Jordan. She said to me… ‘I want to go and see the bricks!'”
Sister Iswari drove Mrinalini to the school where the two orange-robed nuns explored the campus until they found Mr. Jordan’s bricks by the bell tower.*
At one point during this excursion Merna/Mrinalini confessed to Sister Iswari, “I feel like I should tell somebody that I am here!” The audience laughed when Sister Iswari added, “Well, I guess that you all found out that she was here.”
At the end of her remarks, Sister Iswari invited Mrs. Tighe up to read Merna/Mrinalini’s inscription and to share her memories of their friendship.
Mrs. Tighe told the audience how she was a bit jealous of Merna’s naturally curly hair, and how Merna’s middle name was “Loy”, and as there was a famous actress in those days named Myrna Loy, “… she and I had a little thing about that, too!”
As Mrs. Tighe married a Navy man, she moved a lot and wasn’t able to come to many SDUHS reunions. When she did manage to make it, Merna was never there. Once, she remembered, they were able to meet up in San Francisco and it was just as it was when they were in school.
“Merna and I had that kind of friendship that you pick up like a lot of us do here. You know?” Mrs. Tighe told the crowd. “We don’t see each other for ten years but when we come back, wow! The years just drop by!”
Siser Iswari told Mrs. Tighe she was going to share Mrinalini’s story about Joyce’s having received straight A’s and Mrs. Tighe protested, “I don’t know about straight A’s!” Apparently Mrinalini had been describing to Paramahansa Yogananda about her friendship with Joyce Darby when he asked her, “How are her grades?”
Mrinalini told him that Joyce got straight A’s and he exhorted, “I want you to get straight A’s, too!”
Merna/Mrinalini worked even harder. Her face and name appear in the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) photo in the 1949 Hoofprint (a group of smiling faces that includes her friend Joyce.)
Mrs. Tighe told Sister Iswari that she was glad to learn about Merna/Mrinalini’s lifetime of work in the SRF. “I know that she walked the walk,” she said. “She walked the walk wherever she was. And for that she was a blessing in my life.”
If you would like to experience some of the moments described in this article, please see the links and photographs below.
- Click here to download a copy of the commemorative program distributed at this ceremony (in black-and-white)
- Click here to download a copy of the commemorative program distributed at this ceremony (in color)
- Click here to download a transcript of Sister Iswari’s remarks (including Mrs. Tighe’s portion of the ceremony.