Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dedicated Space Honors Legacy of Long-Time Red Crosser

By MaryBeth Lawson
Mary Peterson embodied the humanity that is the American Red Cross. Thanks to a generous donation from her family, we had the pleasure of honoring Mary’s commitment to the American Red Cross and debut the Mary Peterson Education Lounge the weekend of Jan. 22.

A plaque shows Mary Peterson at work in the '80s.
A named space in our Colorado & Wyoming Regional Headquarters in Denver, the Mary Peterson Education Lounge is surrounded by other notable Colorado Philanthropists – like the Daniels Fund and Anschutz Family –  who committed to build a future for the Red Cross.

The Mary Peterson Education Lounge is part of the Colorado & Wyoming Century Center, an interactive, educational space that was renovated in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the Red Cross in Colorado. The Century Center is a place where elements of education, current events, history and recognition intermingle with meeting rooms to help the Red Cross better train volunteers, engage the community and respond to disasters. The Mary Peterson Education Lounge, a space occupied by couches and coffee tables, aspires to be a place of collaboration, community and education.

Mary’s first interaction with the Red Cross was as a candy striper while in high school in Jackson, Michigan. She went on to receive her diploma from Radcliffe College and her nursing degree from Massachusetts General Hospital. It was then that she met and married her husband Peter and had two children, Eric and Lisa. Once Mary’s children were old enough, Mary returned to nursing, became a Red Cross volunteer and taught CPR and First Aid classes as part of the Preparedness and Health and Safety program. A few years later Mary was hired on full-time as a nurse for the American Red Cross.

A view of the Mary Peterson Education Lounge
In addition to deploying to at least one disaster, Mary’s employment as a nurse with the Red Cross touched countless lives through her innovative education and prevention efforts. During the AIDS Epidemic of the 1980s, Mary pioneered a Red Cross education initiative, teaching classes to at-risk populations about proper prevention and care. In addition to her innovative and admirable work with HIV/AIDS education, Mary led the charge and helped organize the Channel 9 Health Fair. A longtime volunteer and employee of the American Red Cross of Colorado, Mary left her mark on the organization. She was awarded the Manager’s Award for Employee Excellence in 1989 to recognize her impact.

A recurring theme during the ceremony dedicating the Mary Peterson Education Lounge was that Mary was committed to doing the right thing. The Red Cross is also guided by doing the right thing. Those guiding values are called the Fundamental Principles, and while both aspirational and operational, they steer the work of Red Cross workers around the world. Come check out the Mary Peterson Education Lounge and be inspired, collaborate and innovate with those around you.

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