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Steamboat Magazine

George and Marion Tolles – A Partnership from Politics to Professorship

03/28/2019 04:50PM ● By Alesha Damerville

Image from Ski Town Media Inc./Ken Wright

By Deborah Olsen

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS –Who or why, or which, or what, Is the Akond of Swat?

Is he tall or short, or dark or fair? 

Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or chair, or squat,

The Akond of Swat?

Is he wise or foolish, young or old?

Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold, or hot,

The Akond of Swat?

Edward Lear, father of the limerick, posed these nonsensical questions in 1883.

George Tolles, who actually had breakfast with the “Wali (patron) of Swat,” says he found the gentleman to be quite distinguished. A Fulbright Scholarship led George to Pakistan, where he found a peaceful people living in the serene Swat Valley. That memory makes the fighting between Taliban militants and Pakistan forces there today all the more incom- prehensible to him.

He and his wife, Marian, have watched international politics unfold throughout their 52-year marriage. From Cali, Colombia, to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, the Tolles were stationed in disparate locales during George’s Foreign Service career. Now a professor emeritus at CMC, George’s travels are ongoing. He has lectured in China, been mugged in Peru and gone door- to-door in rural Japan with Marian to find accommodations  (neither speaks Japanese). “Somehow when you don’t speak the language, there’s a kind of basic humanity that comes through that’s more important than language,” George says.

George and Marian have developed their own nonverbal communication. “Marian has ESP,” George says. “I think about it, and then Marian will mention it. We carry on a whole conversation without ever saying anything. She’s also my encyclopedia. As I approach 80 I can remember places, but Ican’t remember names. She keeps me honest.”

Marian used those encyclopedic skills throughout her multi-faceted career at the Steamboat Ski&ResortCorp.From LTV’s ownership in 1973 through Kamori Kankoin 1997, she saw mountain operations grow from a small business to a multi-national corporation. “In the LTV days, it was like a family,” she recalls.“The older days look better when new days come along.”

George and Marian still greet each new day with an early morning swim in the hot springs pool. Perhaps the mineral-rich waters enhance their enduring enthusiasm for life.

~ Deborah Olsen