When one has a great love for something and is able to find a way to make it a meaningful part of his or her life, it can surely be considered a success. When that person finds a way to take that passion and turn it into something that helps other people find their passion as well, it becomes something different; it transforms into a source of connection, of love, of hope for the future.
Such is the good fortune for Sue Murray, University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum volunteer and part of the Museum’s gift shop management team, and for the Mazza itself, as being able to count good friends like Murray as a spoke in the ever-turning Museum wheel is certainly a gift.
Murray, born and raised in Findlay, knows well the value of the inherent benefits within the city. She graduated from Findlay High School before attending Findlay College in the late 1970s while working at another Findlay landmark and boon to the surrounding area, Marathon Oil Company (now Marathon Petroleum Corporation). Even during that span of years, the passion that eventually led her to the Mazza Museum was beginning to percolate. When she decided to leave her job and continue college at Anderson University into the 80s, she chose, as part of her elective coursework, classes related to early childhood education, including the children’s literature that she quickly grew to be even more fond of. Children’s books and art, she said, were always underlying loves of hers, but, as parents often do, her father worried about the plausibility of it as a career back then, and encouraged her to pursue a different degree as her main emphasis. Toward that end, she said, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Management and came back to Findlay to work in the family business.
Call it inspiration, call it love for her children, call it what you like, but after she married and had her two kids, Murray’s radar for volunteering started to pick up. The many opportunities that come with a growing family presented themselves, and she was off and running. “I totally submersed myself in all things volunteer at their school,” she said. “I tutored in the hallways, worked in the library, was PTO officer, and organized fund-raisers.” Her attention to the kids’ schools caused, in turn, attention from the schools, eventually leading to Murray being hired by Findlay City Schools as an office sub, in the library, and occasionally as a lunch room monitor. As luck would have it for her, the school’s librarian retired, and she was hired into that position. “That pulled so many loves of mine all into one lovely bundle,” Murray explained.
It was during her work in the library that she met Mary Miller, the retired librarian who coordinates the Haven Resource Center at Mazza. She explained that she often saw Mrs. Miller at church, and, knowing Murray’s heart and interests, that she would regularly suggest that Murray come to Mazza to see what it has to offer. About five years ago, Murray said, the Museum ran an advertisement in the Findlay Courier newspaper, encouraging people to volunteer, and that, coupled with Miller’s regular coercion, swayed her to check it out. “The ad listed several areas of opportunity, and I quickly enlisted as a volunteer in the Gift Shop and the Resource Center,” Murray said.
During her first year in the Mazza’s gift shop, Murray recalled, the two ladies that were ordering supplies and books retired, and she “immediately jumped at the opportunity,” asking about interviewing for a position. As the gift shops’ management was restructured, she was asked, after a successful interview, to be one of three people to be part of the management team. “My duties include ordering books and a few other product lines–puzzles, pop-up cards, baby apparel–for the gift shop. It also includes ordering books to match new art received for the Resource Center, for summer and weekend conferences, various author/illustrator visits, Funday Sunday special guests, the new Toledo Zoo gallery, and a variety of special orders,” among other duties, Murray said.
What has happened during her relationship with the Museum is the fulfillment of that aforementioned connection–the one that pairs passion with service and relationships. At the heart of the University of Findlay and its Mazza Museum, and what drives the collective passion for children’s art and literature that Murray shares with the other volunteers and staff of the Museum, is the family that it creates. It’s the people and stories that are celebrated both quietly and, once they are able to be back together again within its walls, with what will certainly be a long-delayed feeling of excitement.
“The Mazza experience wouldn’t be complete without the people that keep the daily operations in motion,” Murray said. “These are people who love life, laughter, and each other in the midst of celebrations and challenges. And nothing touches my heart more than a smile and/or tear shared because of a really good story, whether it’s from a book or from the heart.