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Globe Northwest People

Devoted to the Aquarium

By Cindy Cantrell
October 5, 2008
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After Concord resident Susie Buttrick's youngest child entered kindergarten, she began looking for a rewarding way to spend her newfound free time. Buttrick, who had majored in zoology at Mount Holyoke College, discovered her niche at the newly opened New England Aquarium in 1969.

Nearly 40 years later, Buttrick has donated more than 10,600 hours - and counting - to the organization. She was recently honored during the aquarium's annual Volunteer Appreciation Night as the organization's longest-running volunteer.

Buttrick said she has remained with the New England Aquarium because she enjoys the variety of tasks. She has held office administration roles, given Giant Ocean Tank talks, created and executed her own children's programs, coordinated fund-raisers, guided school tours, and even co-authored a sustainable seafood cookbook for the aquarium titled "A Feast of Fishes." After serving as an aquarium trustee for about 15 years, she was elected a lifetime trustee in 1998.

Over the years, Buttrick said she has appreciated both the increased sophistication of the aquarium's exhibits and the size of its volunteer base, which has risen during her tenure from about 50 to 500 individuals. She enjoys sharing information with visitors of all ages, and finds it particularly satisfying when she is able to inspire interest in a particular sea creature.

Buttrick fondly remembers one instance, for example, when she overheard a student repeating what she had just taught him about the clownfish to his classmate.

"One of the reasons I've been here so long is because the place really fascinates me," she said. "I've seen the aquarium grow and change so much over the years, all for the better. It's great having the opportunity to introduce people from all over [the world] to so many exciting things."

ONE WOMAN SHOW: After moving to Massachusetts about 10 years ago, actress and educator Sally Matson of Andover (inset) began working at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell. Inspired by an interest in the mill girls and 19th-century history, she decided to turn her dream of performing a one-woman play into reality.

"I made a list of people [to perform], and Susan B. Anthony came out on top," Matson said. "She's a remarkable woman that few people know much about."

Anthony, who lived from 1820 to 1906, was an activist who fought for women's rights and suffrage, temperance, and abolition. According to Matson, she traveled across the country countless times over a 50-year period, using her intellect and wit to attempt to influence legislators. Although Anthony had her share of critics, she also had several well-known and respected friends including Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Clara Barton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Amelia Bloomer, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Matson has incorporated Anthony's speeches, letters, and diary entries into her show, which encompasses the Underground Railroad; Civil War; the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments; and her arrest and subsequent trial for voting illegally in Rochester, N.Y., in 1872. Since Matson launched her show six years ago, she has traveled to 13 states, putting on about 35 performances a year.

"This is a painless way to learn history, but also a good lesson in issues that are still relevant today," Matson said. "After understanding the enormous struggle [for women's suffrage], every one of us should really think about who will do the best job for our country and then go out and vote."

Matson will present "Susan B. Anthony - the Invincible!" at the Nashua Public Library at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16. To learn more, visit susanbanthonytheinvincible.com.

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Several local community college professors have received honors for their work in and outside the classroom.

Phyllis Wentworth of Arlington, who teaches at Bristol Community College, and Margaret Bleichman of Brookline, who teaches at Middlesex Community College, were each presented with a 2008 Course of Distinction Award at the Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) E-Learning Conference held recently at Middlesex Community College.

Their respective courses, "Child Development" and "Programming I," were selected from more than 1,400 classes offered through MCO. The organization is a consortium of the nine state and 15 community colleges in Massachusetts.

Additionally, three faculty members from Northern Essex Community College's Computer Technology and Engineering Department were recently nominated for best paper in the kindergarten through grade 12 division at the annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education in Pittsburgh.

Lori Heymans of Salem, N.H., Paul Chanley of Wakefield, and Michael Pelletier of Salem, Mass., co-wrote the paper, which details three professional development institutes offered by the college to local middle school and high school teachers during the summers of 2006 and 2007. The institutes explored the engineering, technology, science, and math behind the generation of electricity by wind, water, and solar power.

The program was designed to instill an early and lifelong interest in engineering, technology, science, and math among area students.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.

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