Anyone who walks into Leavenworth likely has to walk past an office tucked into a corner, almost unnoticeable. The office fills with sunlight and is decorated to match the season. Pictures of children hang on the wall and lost-and-found items are scattered about with little notes like “found in room 104 – Tita.”
But perhaps the most important item in the office is the person who occupies it, Mary Woods, affectionately known as “Queen Mary.”
“When I first came to Castleton, it was clear to me that Mary ran the show. She made sure I had everything I needed,” said adjunct English professor Bill Wiles. “Now that I am in my ninth year here at Castleton, I know that Mary ensures the good ship Leavenworth maintains its course, no matter the obstacle. Her kind and gentle demeanor mark her as ‘the Queen of Leavenworth.'”
Woods’ duties as caretaker of Leavenworth include checking printers and photocopiers to make sure they have paper and ink, ordering supplies and checking on the smart rooms.
“I like to troubleshoot,” Woods said.
Before working as Leavenworth secretary, Woods worked as media coordinator and secretary to dean of students, where she got to interact with students on a daily basis.
“I think working with students all the time keeps all of us younger,” Woods said. “I miss the student contact very much, they were like my kids away from home.”
Woods has three children, who live in Australia, Idaho and Vermont, and five grandchildren. She said the saddest moment in her life was when her kids moved away.
“When my daughter [Michelle] left for Australia, I really thought I was going to die,” Woods said. “We were like sisters and friends, not just mother daughter.”
Fortunately Woods and her daughter get to see each other at least once a year. Woods has been to Australia six times.
“I adore living in Australia, but there is a gaping hole in my life daily and it has [my mom’s] name on it,” Michelle said in a recent interview.
Michelle’s favorite memory with her mother is when they celebrated their birthdays in Paris.
“We logged our steps with her pedometer. I think we did between 17,000 and 21,000 steps that day covering the city,” Michelle recalled. “It was so special to be there with her because she supported me when I was 16 to get to France with the high school French Club, but she never got to go so traipsing around Paris together all those years later was super special.”
Woods’ other children, Tony and Traci, echoed their older sister’s love for their mother.
“I could write a funny story about my mom,” said Traci. “But the honest truth is that she is the real deal and deserves to be recognized for her tremendous value. She is kind, compassionate, gentle, and the rock of our family.”
Though Woods proved to be a loving mother, she didn’t learn that from her parents.
“My parents were very strict. Very strict,” Woods said. “My childhood could have been a lot happier.”
Woods credits her grandparents as being more parental. She said she loved her grandfather so much that she pretended he was alive for a year after he had died.
Woods met her first husband in college, and they got married when she was still in school. Her biggest regret is that she didn’t get her degree sooner. Luckily, working at Castleton gave her a second chance. Woods obtained her associate and bachelor degrees from CSC.
She likes to garden and be creative. When she has to make signs about professors not having class she always decorates them.
“It’s hard to be creative in this job,” she says.
Next time you walk into Leavenworth remember that you’re in the presence of a true queen.
“She does a lot for me,” said philosophy professor Bob Johnson. “Most importantly she provides compassion, advice, support, and change for the vending machines.”