Thursday, April 25, 2013

National Volunteer Week 2013: Meet Our Longest-Serving Volunteer

Susie Buttrick is not only known for her winning smile, generous heart and skill as an educator, but for also the distinction of being the longest serving volunteer at the Aquarium. Susie has been with us since June 1969. Careful readers will note that is also the date when we first opened our doors! Since then, Susie has donated over 11,000 hours in service to the Aquarium. To put that figure in perspective, a volunteer would have to work 24 hours a day with no sleep for 458 consecutive days to match Susie.

Susie Buttrick (undated)

Currently, you can find Susie on the floor working with our Visitor Education crew, though she’s been a part of a variety of departments over the years. We sat down with Susie recently to talk about her experience volunteering with the Aquarium.

You’ve been volunteering for over 44 years, what keeps you coming back?
Susie Buttrick (SB): Only perhaps on one day out of the 365 do I leave here grumpy. I love sharing learnings and talking with folks. I constantly hear “thank you” from visitors and how much they’ve enjoyed the aquarium. Aquarium people are all nice...especially the Wednesday volunteers.

What was your background?
SB: In college, I majored in zoology...I was never very chemically inclined so I stayed away from those types of sciences.

How did you get started in Visitor Education?
SB: In 1969, I had Newfoundland dogs and they were more than enough animal care, on top of raising a family. So being an aquarist also never really appealed to me. A dedicated babysitter allowed me to have free time so I was looking for something to do. I didn’t realize that there was an aquarium starting up in Boston, but the ocean has always been a part of my life. My parents had a house in Bermuda and my mom was still SCUBA diving until age 50!

Susie Buttrick at far left (undated)

What was it like in the beginning?
SB: In 1969, the early “experiment” organized by the education department was to see how groups of students might be managed when touring the Aquarium. What became very clear was that groups of 20+ students did not “tour” very well. As a result, there was some education presence on the floor but for the most part, the most coveted volunteer opportunity was to work in the small gift shop.

Why did most volunteers choose the Aquarium?
SB: In the beginning, I think the majority of volunteers were there because it was the new guy on the block and it would be easy to be accepted. Some came from other institutions like the MFA, others, including myself, were looking for an opportunity to widen horizons. Some just loved the ocean environment.

How do you feel the mentality of volunteering has changed today?
SB: When I first started, the idea was to add a “helping hand” to those in need. Mostly in the social services, like schools, hospitals, prisons, etc. My mother and father were airplane spotters in World War 2. Volunteer service nowadays is more about a learning experience and not just a way to pass the time. Because it has become so popular and wide spread, you can pick the organization.

You’ve worked on a lot of different fundraising projects, what was one of your favorite?
SB: As a member of the Aquarium Council, we did a lot to advertise memberships. We had a variety of functions like organizing LL Bean fashion shows. In 1988 or so, we created a seafood cookbook called Feast of Fishes. We tried to get a couple of the different local restaurants to give us recipes, but I think we were before our time.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone should visit the Aquarium exhibits on a Wednesday and meet the fabulous Susie!


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