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MCCC Alum Maggie Anderson Reflects on
Fulfilling Career in the Wild

1/31/12


West Windsor, N.J. - Looking back on a career that spans 38 years, MCCC alumna and wildlife manager Maggie Anderson '70 (A.A.S., Science) remembers a time when women were the minority in her field. Today wildlife management boasts an even playing field for men and women, but in Anderson's early years, she broke new ground as she proved that women were a good fit in the wilderness.

Currently a resident of Thief River Falls, MN, Anderson, formerly Peggy Campbell, grew up in Yardville, N.J. She just recently retired after having spent many years as a wildlife refuge manager in several states - first at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Montana, then at Petit Manan NWR in Maine, and most recently, at the Agassiz NWR in Minnesota. Prior to these posts, she served in various other wildlife positions in Maine, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, including working as a fish biologist.

"My career has been a lifestyle, a connection to the land and the creatures that live there," Anderson says.

When reflecting on her life and career, Anderson credits Mercer as being the place that started it all. She enrolled under unusual circumstances, having planned to head west for college to study at Colorado State University. During Anderson's senior year of high school her father was officially declared missing after not returning home from an excursion flying a small plane, which was his hobby. She unexpectedly found herself needing to make a more affordable choice, and Mercer was the best solution.

Alum Maggie Anderson is pictured here with a boar black bear (brown phase) in hibernation at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge. The bears are tranquilized while being tagged for radio collaring, as seen here.

According to Anderson, MCCC proved to be a great starting point for her career. "Mercer gave me more than a good education; it really broadened my perspectives socially. I'm glad things went the way they did," she said.

Anderson attended high school at Linden Hall, a boarding school in Lititz, PA. She notes that the environment there was homogenous and isolated. But all that changed after she began college. "I learned to not be afraid of people who are different from me," she said, adding that her best friend at Mercer was African American.

She has fond memories of her MCCC professors, recalling the husband and wife team of science professors, Dr. Herbert Donahue and Eileen Donahue. "They were awesome; they exposed us to a lot," she said. Co-founders of the college's Environmental Club, the Donahues took Anderson's class on camping trips so students could learn about ecology first-hand. They also ensured that their students were involved in the school's first Earth Day celebration. She recalls two other favorites - Professor Edith Silver, who still teaches mathematics at the college, and Professor Dominic Misciascio, a physics teacher who recently retired after 46 years.

"Every one of those teachers was willing to give us extra time if we needed it," Anderson said, adding that she believes she got much more attention at Mercer than she would have had at a larger university.

Anderson notes that all of her credits from Mercer transferred to her four-year school of choice, the University of Maine, Orono, where she earned her bachelor's degree in wildlife management. She was one of only four women in the program at the time.

Originally planning to become a veterinarian, Anderson first decided to study wildlife after meeting a fellow student at Mercer who was going into the field. "I always loved animals and the outdoors, but this was the first I'd ever heard of this major," she said, adding that her classmate later went on to become a conservation officer in New Jersey.

Being one of few women to study wildlife management in the 1970s, Anderson worked hard to overcome stereotypes. "As a woman you always had to prove you were worthy," she said. (When Anderson was hired at the Lee Metcalf NWR, she was its first female manager.)

She met her husband, Larry, at the wildlife refuge in Maine. Together they had three sons: twins Russell and Joshua (28) and Zachary (25). Two of her sons are nurses, and the third is applying to a master's program in speech therapy. "I come from a long line of doctors and nurses," she said, adding that she is proud of her sons for going into nursing, once a very gender-specific profession, just like her own.

She noted that one of her children went to a community college. "I think that community colleges provide a firm, inexpensive foundation for your education."

Anderson enriched her Mercer experience by making the most of every opportunity that was available to her. "When you enroll in school, it's about what you take from the experience. Work hard, get involved, and take all your classes seriously. You get out of it what you put into it."

While technically retired, Anderson plans to stay active in her field as a volunteer for her former employer, Agassiz NWR. She has also applied to volunteer for three months in 2013 at Midway Atoll NWR, located on a remote Hawaiian island in the Pacific.

Anderson maintains that wildlife always has, and hopefully will continue to be, an important part of our world. She encourages students to consider entering the field of wildlife management if they have a passion for preserving the world's natural beauty.

"As this country continues to develop, our nation's wildlife are confined to smaller and smaller areas of habitat. Every part of the country has beauty and every native creature and habitat is important to strengthening the fabric of life that we humans depend upon."


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