Teachers are special people. Those who are extraordinary are the educators who don’t consider their career so much a job more than a passion. Often, after years spent molding minds and guiding hearts, when the time comes to retire from their jobs, teachers find a certain void in their lives; a void that can only be filled by spending time with children in as much the same way as their career’s work had. The lucky ones find more than just “time” in their post-work lives to get back to their passion. They discover an opportunity to continue to expand their horizons even further. Mary Miller, the library manager of the Mazza Resource Room is living that chance, one book at a time.
Miller, having been born and raised in Findlay and as a member of the College First Church of God, has been familiar with Findlay and its University since its days as Findlay College. Her husband Les, a retired elementary school teacher and principal, is a 1964 alumnus of the University, and both he and she worked for Findlay City Schools. Mary taught at Glenwood (Junior High School, now Middle School) while she earned a master’s degree in history and certification in library and media from Bowling Green State University, before becoming the library media specialist at Donnell Middle School in town. The pair raised two daughters and grew to love their life as educators a great deal.
So, how did Miller learn about the Museum she holds so dear when it was finally time to retire? “One part of my middle school library experience I was most proud of was my picture book collection,” she disclosed. “I amassed a nice assortment of books that were used by many of my teachers; wordless books used to generate writing, science stories that simplified complex explanations, collections of books highlighting parts of speech, and so on. I felt some calling to promote picture books to even higher thinking levels, because often these books had built-in strata of maturity and comprehension.” Naturally, of course, her love of picture books and education caused her to feel the pull of the Mazza Museum, as it so often happens, and the proverbial ball started rolling.
She began her relationship with Mazza by volunteering at the gift shop for a few hours a month when it was a mere “small closet in the Great Hall,” according to her. Subsequently, she became acquainted with former education professor and founder of the museum, the late Dr. Jerry Mallett, from whom her husband had taken courses, as well as its current director, Ben Sapp. “They piqued my interest in doing more after my retirement, so I became a Mazza Enthusiast,” she said. “Upon my retirement in 2001, and after having been a library specialist for 17 years at Donnell, I became interested in the collection of books held in a small room which is now Ben’s office.” The books, she added, were maintained in such a rudimentary manner that, in her organized, librarian mind, she felt the need for them to be cataloged. “I told Ben and Jerry that if they wanted the museum book collection to be elevated to elite status among other private university libraries, they would need to be cataloged and processed into an online catalog.” With their support, she began the project shortly after.
Now, some 20 years later, Miller is the volunteer library manager of the Havens Resource Room. Overseeing approximately 20 volunteers who keep the room open, she spends a lot of time getting to know them and other volunteers who come from various types of careers and interests.
Miller said, since it’s such a wonderful place and a great fit for her post-retirement, it’s hard to pick out favorite things about Mazza. What she did mention, however, is the people, both young and old. “Most of us who are retired teachers yearn to be around children, interacting with them, teaching them about the wonderful art,” she reiterated, “and of course my most favorite is my working relationship with the staff, especially Ben Sapp, our beloved director. His dedication to the mission and vision of Dr. Jerry Mallett and his charismatic charm have won us all over.”
Miller said that she read a book recently that made her reflect on her life and the time she spends at the Museum. The writer, Maya Angelou, said in the book that “success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
“I would like to accomplish a bit more but overall, but life has been extremely good,” Miller added.