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Photograph of Margaret Ryckebusch - a headshot of a woman with shoulder length black hair, light makeup, and a pearl necklace

Matthew Ryckebusch

Educator and labor leader Margaret A. Duggan Ryckebusch (1940-1998) was a professor, department head, and union leader at Bristol Community College. Margaret was also a leader in the area’s labor movement, serving on the New Bedford Central Labor Council and on the Advisory Committee of the Labor Education Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. At her retirement from BCC, she was awarded Professor Emeritus of Speech.

Margaret A. Duggan Ryckebusch (1940-1998) was born on July 11, 1940, in New Bedford, where she grew up in a home on Mt. Pleasant Street. She was the daughter of Helen and Joseph Duggan. Joseph Duggan was a prominent lawyer in the city of New Bedford and an active member of the Democratic Party. He had become New Bedford’s City Solicitor at the age of 32, and in 1945 he held the position of Assistant Attorney General under Democratic President Harry S. Truman.

During Attorney Duggan’s tenure the family met many politicians including a young Senator John Kennedy and his wife. Margaret was responsible for escorting Mrs. Kennedy around the city. Throughout her life Margaret was unwavering in her political ideals and volunteered for many political campaigns. A memoriam in Margaret’s memory included in a Massachusetts Community College Council newsletter in 1998, the year of her passing, encapsulates this passion, “She believed that political activism was the way of ensuring a quality life for everyone.”

Margaret graduated in 1957 from Sacred Hearts Academy in Fairhaven, MA. She received her undergraduate degree from Stonehill College in 1962 and then a master’s degree from Boston College. Margaret started her teaching career in a junior college near Boston. In 1968 she accepted a full-time position as a professor in the English Department at Bristol Community College (BCC). This was where she met her husband Jules Ryckebusch, also a Professor of English there. One year later they were married, and they would eventually have two sons. She later became chair of the Department of Modern Languages, Fine Arts, and Humanities at BCC, where she also developed its speech curriculum.

Margaret was an active union leader of the Massachusetts Community College Council at BCC for nearly 20 years. She was the chapter president from 1982-1986 and a co-president from 1992-1994. During this time few women held these positions. Margaret was a relentless advocate for both faculty and staff at BCC. If she knew an employee was struggling to receive insurance or some other benefit, she would be the first one to avidly fight for their rights. Margaret made many trips to the BCC President’s office on behalf of these people in pursuit of fairness and equality. Her peers and colleagues admired and respected her for the tireless work.

Beyond BCC, Margaret was a leader in the area’s labor movement, serving on the New Bedford Central Labor Council. She also was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where she helped to create a Union Leadership Certificate program.

Margaret was a dedicated teacher who challenged her students and guided them to become strong students and citizens. She held her students to high standards and would always make time for learners who needed extra help. At the rededication of the teacher’s lounge in the Fall River campus of BCC, her dear friend Mary Costello remarked that “Margaret fought the most for students who were outside the mainstream society.” Costello later explained that Margaret knew and embraced community college because “community college was where she would make connections.” Even in her classroom Margaret was an advocate for equality and fairness. She knew that all students had potential.

Margaret retired from BCC in June 1998 and was awarded Professor Emeritus of Speech. Before Margaret retired, she had taken a sabbatical to research bringing a sign language certificate to BCC. Sandy Lygren, Deaf Studies Program Director, noted, “Her work did become a real certificate offered here … if not for her interest/curiosity, we would not have Deaf Studies at Bristol Community College today.” Margaret’s legacy attests to her tireless efforts, proactive leadership and perseverance to better the community.

In 2001 Margaret was memorialized for the impact she made through her union as part of a labor mural alongside other prominent community activists. The mural, entitled “Uniting Labor History with the Community,” is a representation of “leaders and workers who have had such a tremendous impact on our city’s past and present.” The expansive mural is located near the corner of Sixth and Spring Streets in the historic district of New Bedford.

Willow Hoaglund 

edited by Matthew Ryckebusch

Information from

  • “Costello, Mary. Telephone interview. 4 Apr. 2017.

  • “Distance Ed Agreement Signed.” MCCC News, November 1998. Accessed 3 May 2017.

  • Labor Education Center. “Murals.” UMass Dartmouth, Accessed 3 May 2017.

  • Lygren, Sandy. E-mail interview. 27 Apr. 2017.

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