Tell me about the work you do now.
I work for the National Archives Records Administration as the Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. I preserve records and artifacts that represent and support the legacy of the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. I have managed people and projects most of my life initially in food and hospitality and in archives, libraries and museums. I am a historian, librarian and archivist by education and am absolutely in love with collecting, preserving and providing access to cultural heritage.
How did your Friends journey begin?
I grew up on Roosevelt Island before there was a subway. We were a small and intimate community and had options to go to Queens or Manhattan for public High School. My mom chose Friends. She knew Ann Sullivan. I wanted to go to LaGuardia, School of the Performing Arts but she had other plans. Although Friends wasn’t my choice I was able to study and do all the things I wanted to do with far less rigidness than the Catholic school my older sister attended. So the journey began well and continues to.
What are some of your most memorable moments from your time at Friends?
There are so many. Mostly I remember the people, silent meetings, flexibility and the ability to make change and contribute to our learning experience. Hanging out with friends. Going to see the Mets World Series parade and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Being a part of CARE (Cultural Awareness Reaching Everyone). Talking with Ed Randolph and Milton Sipp. Classes with Jean Johnson who amazingly wrote our textbooks. Not reading Huck Finn and getting no push back about it and reading Invisible Man instead. Insisting on having and then taking the African American History and Literature classes. My first experience studying one book for an entire semester. Phil Schwartz was a master at teaching The Iliad. Taking Chorus with the famous Nelly Perez Vuksic who graciously worked with us to sing the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing at our graduation. She helped with every musical I was in. Feisty petite principal Joyce McCray. Playing soccer against Sacred Heart on a roof. Track meets on Randall Island. Going with my classmates and teachers to multiple regions in Italy and staying in people’s homes. Being an exchange student in France and then serving as a host for the student I stayed with. Going to Powell House at the end of Senior year.
In what ways have Quaker values and your experience at Friends influenced the work you do today?
I learned—and still practice—how to be still and listen and the importance of creating a safe environment for people to speak freely. I learned how to stand for equality and embrace differences whether you agree or not or understand or not. I learned to judge less and keep it simple. I am and always have been a woman of faith, but what I was always amazed by silent meetings—over a hundred high schoolers sat in silence for a few minutes almost every day and respectfully listened to someone who was moved to speak, or sing, or read a poem.
How do you understand the work you do now as bringing about a world that ought to be?
I am a public servant, an archivist and a librarian by training so I specialize in collecting, organizing, preserving original material in any format and in helping people access it. I manage a museum where I get the added bonus of communicating information about our collections, and their stories and meaning to people from anywhere and everywhere. My work supports social interaction and encourages learning and reflection on a variety of issues. I am deeply committed to developing staff, building community, and engaging in new ways with historic and cultural materials. I share the past to inform the future and use collection materials to engage groups of all ages. I create avenues of open dialog for communities to better understand and support civic engagement.
What are your hopes, dreams and plans for your work in the future?
I am deeply invested in exploring the ways in which individuals and groups approach knowledge creation, management, and access; investigating the ethical impact of those decisions; and developing equitable platforms for engagement. I will continue to diversify collections—fill in the gaps with those who have been silenced or undiscoverable and teach people the same. I will continue to preserve and make accessible documents (regardless of format or structure) and artifacts so those in the future have as much information and accurate representation of culture and history to learn about others and remember.