“Every day I am grateful for my home economics degree,” says Mary O Haller ’48. “It was so comprehensive…things come up over and over and I find myself using what I learned to this day.” Mary O recently showed her appreciation for her OSU education by establishing a bequest to be used for junior faculty teaching in childhood development. “When I die at age 113, if there is another more pressing need for faculty, the direction of the bequest can be changed…that only makes sense.” Why 113, we asked? “We’ll I did that exercise on the internet and it said I would live to be 113,” she said in a lively tone. “Last week, my acupuncturist told me I was in such great shape, I would live be 100. I quickly corrected him!”
Mary O is the picture of healthy and active aging. A self-proclaimed “Professional Volunteer”, she gives back to her community an average of 25 hours a week, thanks to the “volunteering gene” she received from her parents who gave their time to the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, PEO and to hospital volunteering during the war. I grew up thinking “That’s just what we do…fit our passion with what’s needed in the community and give back.” Mary O is past president, former board member and a still active volunteer for Childhaven, a Seattle nonprofit that works to prevent and stop the cycle of child abuse and neglect for children aged one month through five years, and their families. She enjoys doing outreach with the Episcopal Church in Federal Way, Washington, and recently agreed to head up their stewardship campaign. “I told them the only way I would agree to do it is if can do it my way,” she said in a convincing tone. The campaign will no doubt succeed under her energetic leadership. Mary O loves working with at-risk kids at a local grade school and as a reading mentor for an after school program. She says she’s delighted that her son Jeff ’72 and his wife Mary live close by so she can frequently play “weekend caregiver” to her two of her grandchildren aged 7 and 10.
After graduating from OSU in 1948, Mary was a graduate assistant at OSU’s Park Street Nursery School and later taught at Monroe elementary while her husband Allan ’51 finished his degree in chemical engineering. After moving to Port Townsend with their five children, Mary O became the first teacher/director for Washington State Head Start in Port Townsend. After they moved to Seattle she worked at Seattle University and then at the University of Washington as the Director of Training for Head Start. During that time she worked on one of the seven teams that gave input to the development of the national Child Development Associate credential. In 1977 she earned her MA from Washington State University. She did her thesis using the prototype of the CDA credential to meeting the needs of seniors since it makes sense that throughout our lives we have the same needs. “throughout our lives, it’s important continue to have to have a safe and healthy learning environment that nurtures our physical, cognitive, communication, creative and social skills so we can use our individual strengths to make good decisions within our family and communities,” she says.