A former publisher described “fierce females” as women you’d love to sit next to at a dinner party. Someone you could ask for advice or an amusing anecdote. The kind of woman that took unfavorable circumstances and made them favorable. The kind of woman that learns the rules to rewrite them. The kind of woman that props doors of opportunity open and invites the rest of us in.
Meet the trailblazing women in our neighborhood.
When most people think of college graduates, they think of 22-year-olds. Marillyn Seeberger, 85, graduated from Southern Methodist University in May 2022.
Seeberger started working in the radio/TV production department at The Bloom Agency as soon as she moved to Dallas at 23. Over time, Seeberger rose through the ranks to become the first woman vice president of broadcast production at Bloom. She produced commercials for national campaigns, corporate shows and films, and she represented the agency on national industry committees negotiating broadcast talent contracts for decades.
“That was kind of a natural thing for me,” Seeberger says. “I had a lot of built-in clients who came to me because they knew what my areas of expertise were, and they sought me out for that. And so I just sort of said ‘I guess I better start a business.’”
Her production company, Turtle Island Pictures, produced and directed commercials, music videos, created TV shows, and produced corporate and nonprofit videos. She ran the business for 13 years until she retired.
But Seeberger didn’t just work in the Dallas production industry, she molded it. She’s credited with being the first woman president for nearly every film and production professional organization in Dallas -— including the Southwest Chapter of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, the Dallas Communications Council, and Women in Film Dallas. She also served on the advisory board for the KD Conservatory and is a graduate of Leadership Texas.
After retiring, she did some writing for the Saint Michael Episcopal Church Farmers Market, which encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. She enrolled in community college nearly 20 years after she quit working.
“I just thought, for the rest of my life I don’t want to be just sitting and rocking,” Seeberger says. “I do everything with purpose. I don’t like life to just happen to me.”
She transferred to SMU in January 2020. The pandemic caused one of her biggest challenges because she had to figure out how to do her assignments using her smartphone camera and laptop without having someone nearby to help.
“It was scary,” Seeberger says. “But you have to humble yourself and say ‘I don’t know anything,’ then look for a way to find help.”
During her final year of college, Seeberger produced a short film for her senior project, which she aims to get into film festivals and make connections to write more screenplays.
“My mother inspired me when I was young, and didn’t have anyone to play with, because she’d always say ‘What can we do that is going to make us feel good today,’” Seeberger says. “If I get that done, then it inspires me to do something else.”
Char Lovett Sutherlin
Char Lovett Sutherlin and her sister, Colleen Lovett, began singing on stage at 2 and 3 years old. Coming from a musical family, the pair grew up around their dad’s band’s all-night jam sessions together as a family. As teens, they sang on WFAA and WRR before being signed to Imperial Records and recording 10 songs written by their late grandmother, father and Colleen.
“I thought everyone was having jam sessions all night at their house,” Sutherlin says.
As older teenagers, the two began singing with the Teddy Phillips Orchestra and appearing with the band on The Teddy Phillips Show on ABC. After the show ended, Sutherlin and Lovette split up and started their solo careers.
Sutherlin started playing at the Cipango Club when she was 19. The private club was one of Dallas’ most popular spots for mixed drinks, dancing, entertainment and gambling. Sutherlin recalls one evening that John Wayne came to the club, but he was denied entry because he wasn’t with a member. He came back the next night with a member.
“At the end of the evening, him and Chill Wills got into a mock fight on the dance floor, just to be funny, you know,” Sutherlin says. “One of them landed up on the band stand and knocked the whole drum set down. John walks up and just started pulling out the money, so he (the drummer) was happy with that.”
For the next 14 years, Sutherlin bounced around the United States recording two albums and hitting the top spots for one-nighters and location jobs, including the Shelburne Hotel; Atlantic City Pump Room; Chicago; Lago Marand Thunderbird, Palm Springs.
Eventually, Sutherlin got her own group together and became the house band at Chateaubriand restaurant in Dallas. She played there and in other clubs throughout the ’70s, and it was there that she met her husband, Bryan. Sutherlin recalls that she’d see him every night supporting her at whatever club she’d play at.
“When we got married, he never came to the clubs. He was home taking care of my kids. And I was like, ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ I need to be there,” Sutherlin says. “Oh, I wanted to be home. So I quit and I got into real estate.”
Sutherlin worked as a real estate agent since the ’80s and says she had a successful career until (mostly) retiring recently. She says the industry has changed over the years, from having to carry books full of listings and picking up physical keys to each house to being able to do it all with an app.
Now that she has retired, she spends most of her free time with the Preston Hollow Women’s Club, where she has held several positions and participates in philanthropy, mahjong, Bunco and two book clubs.
“I couldn’t say enough good things about that club,” Char says. “There’s something you could do every day and every night of your life, and it is just amazing.”
Mary Grace Eubank
Almost every child in America has enjoyed Mary Grace Eubank’s work, from Sesame Street and Barney to Fisher-Price and Random House.
After graduating from SMU in 1966, Eubank began working for The Drawing Board, where she had the opportunity to be one of the artists using the Sesame Street-licensed characters on greeting cards. It was there where she took on major clients, met art directors and eventually met Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets.
“It just absolutely was being at the right place at the right time,” she says. “And I’m very, very grateful.“
After shifting to freelancing, Eubank went to the New York Stationery Show to meet the art directors from the Children’s Television Workshop. Coincidentally, one of Sesame Street’s illustrators broke his hand and was unable to sign autographs, so though Eubank had not officially done any work for them, she spent the day autographing Sesame Street materials.
This was the beginning of her long career as an illustrator for many of the top children’s brands, including the Children’s Television Workshop, The Muppets, Sesame Street, Hasbro, Fisher-Price, Random House, Mattel and more. But one character would not be the same without her: Barney.
Eubank says that for the first Barney book, Just Imagine, she was tasked with being the first person to illustrate the purple dinosaur. After working with other artists to create Barney’s stylebook, she put a little bit of her own flair on the book: her dog, Clancy.
An avid dog mom of many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Clancy was one of many that have graced the Eubank home. And that imprint was left on that first book, which Eubank often signed with the words “Find Clancy” to encourage children to figure out where on each page she’d strategically placed the loving pet.
“It’s like my own version of Where’s Waldo,” she says.
Once corporate illustrations became more challenging than it was worth, Eubank partnered with writer Mary Hollingsworth. The pair did 16 books together.
“I’m very very grateful,” she says. “But then I finally got burnt out with licensed characters, something I call the ‘Big Bird Burnout.’”
So she quit illustrating children’s materials and started painting. So far, she has had shows in Dallas and Colorado, where she and her husband have a second home.
“It’s just more fun to me. Whatever color I want, and I can make a lot of the things that I do for designers,” Eubank says. “And so if they call me and say we’re looking for a painting for a teenager’s room or a child’s room, it’s a piece of cake for me. Because that’s what I like to do.”