Lessons learned at Ripon keep nonagenarian going

Mary Lou SpindtMary Lou Spink Spindt ’40, of Allison Park, Pa., has been retired for many years, but at the age of 93, she stays busier than most of her contemporaries. She donates time to several organizations, including the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, where she responds to inquiries as co-chair of library research about families who once lived in the Pittsburgh area.

Spindt also still uses her knitting skills acquired during World War II. She is involved with one knitting group whose members knit a variety of things as gifts to nursing homes, homeless shelters and hospitals. As a member of Friendship for the Blind, she works with blind and low-vision people interested in knitting or crocheting.

“It has been a rewarding experience to meet these people and work in a one-to-one relationship to help them learn or relearn a skill, and at the same time to develop a friendship with those whose ability to go out and make new friends is limited,” Spindt says. “I have learned how fortunate I am.”

At Ripon College, Spindt majored in English with a minor in history and took enough teacher education classes to qualify as an English teacher during the time in the state of Wisconsin. Her ultimate goal, however, was to become a librarian.

When Spindt came to Ripon College in 1938, Lane Library was very new, and the stacks on the lower level were almost completely empty. Part of her job at the library was to shelve books. She also worked at the Ripon Public Library during her senior year. It was her job to keep the library open for several weeks after the professional librarian resigned.

Spindt says she learned a great deal about writing at the College, and some of her poetry was published in College Days. “Names of professors are mostly forgotten, but my interest in reading and writing and ancient history have lasted,” she says.

Her graduation was the same year that actor Spencer Tracy was awarded an honorary degree from Ripon College. “In addition to all our parents, many, many people attended that graduation,” Spindt says. “Those of us who had earned our degrees were almost lost in the crowd.”

Spindt received a scholarship to attend the Library School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated with a library degree in 1941.

Over the years, Spindt has recalled lessons on how to repair books taught by Josephine Hargrave, then librarian at Lane Library. She put those lessons into good use at the elementary and middle schools where she worked, and beyond.

“The first children’s library I had contained many candidates for repair, and I was able to refurbish many of the dilapidated books,” Spindt says. “I continue now to repair my own great-grandchildren’s books and sometimes the books in the library of the genealogical society where I volunteer.”

Spindt has lived in Allison Park for more than 60 years. She was married to the late Roderick “Bud” Spindt ’41, who worked in research for the Gulf Oil Co. After the couple retired, they traveled around the country in a motor home. They have two daughters, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, whom Spindt has the pleasure of seeing on a regular basis.


– Allie Pasdera ’14
Waukesha, Wis.

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