Saving schools and building brains: Sandi O’Reilly

Sandi O'Reilly, seen here volunteering at the Mark Twain Library's 100th Birthday Celebration. Credit Craig Donofrio

A couple of posts ago, we spoke about how life changes and ideas of “career” develop as we get older mature. I thought I’d bring my readers a fantastic example of someone who has done just that.  While not a scientist per se, Sandi O’Reilly of Redding, Connecticut, has taken her organizational skills, creativity, and graphic design prowess to develop a life of service to her community and development of intellectual resources that serve people of all ages.

You can read more about Sandi – my beloved Little Sister – in her “Redding Resident of the Week” article at the Weston-Redding-Easton Patch. The short summary is that her life as a Mom and post-corporate life as a graphic designer has become what sounds like a 24/7 obsession with securing educational institutions in her community.

As secretary of their Board of Trustees, she is perhaps best known for running a major fundraiser in support of The Mark Twain Library, the Frog Frolic, a children’s fair that keeps this 100-year-old institution running. Little appreciated among admirers of Samuel Langhorn Clemens is that he spent his last few years in Redding, CT – a town in southwestern Connecticut within a fairly hefty stone’s throw of New York City – and many of his papers remain in collections there. Some of his book collection actually seeded the establishment of the library.

The Frolic is so named in honor of Twain’s first work of major popularity, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865).

Sandi also led a team that kept a local Waldorf school for children from closing – the Apple Blossom School and Family Center in Wilton, CT. For my cycling friends, the school is near Wilton’s Cannon Crossing district where the name “Cannondale” is derived. Every time I talk with her, there is news of some major community accomplishment. Unlike me, my sister has enormous organizational skills and virtually every project she touches turns to gold (or “green” for the organizations she represents.)

Of course, the article also notes that she does the typical local PTA stuff for the school where my remarkable nephews attend and goes in to read, teach computer skills, and train elementary school students in the fine art of non-profit management and fundraising.

Yes, yes – I’ll stop gushing in a second. But just one more note to make this effusive missive relevant to the blog.

Sandi’s husband, Brien, is the primary designer of the Take As Directed masthead above as well as the Terra Sigillata masthead I used for four years at ScienceBlogs. I say “primary” because I’m certain Sandi was involved at some level but, true to her form, she deflects all credit to Brien. Moreover, they also designed the 1997 and 2000 CD packages for my Denver-based musical ensemble, Dogs in the Yard – Brien received a Connecticut Art Directors’ Guild gold medal for his work on the 1st CD.

Congratulations, Sandi, on the recognition by your community of the awesomesauce that you have been for me since the day you were born!

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