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Maggie Mumford: Delivering Change
Greg Kwasnik

Maggie Mumford didn’t sleep well the night before she began her teaching career at Holderness. She was up late, delivering a baby.
 
“I delivered a faculty baby at 11:30 at night,” says Maggie, who at the time had a busy career as an OB/GYN at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth. “I started teaching environmental science the next morning.”
 
So that’s how Maggie – perhaps a bit bleary-eyed from the night before – began teaching at Holderness. The year was 1999, and Maggie - the only OB/GYN at her small, rural hospital - was overworked and looking to make a career change. “I was the only one delivering babies, the only one doing anything related to OB/GYN. They had no hospitalist then, so I was doing any sort of intensive care for those patients and all of the surgeries and all of the deliveries and all of the appointments,” Maggie says. “I just couldn’t do it alone any longer. So, I fell back on my first love from college, which was environmental science.”
 
Maggie’s commitment to environmental science would come to define her teaching career at Holderness. In short order, she went from teaching one section of environmental science to teaching full time, leaving her medical practice behind. As a new teacher at a school in the White Mountains, she pushed hard to incorporate the New Hampshire environment into the school’s science curriculum. Thanks in large part to Maggie, Holderness students now regularly visit the world-famous Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest just north of campus, participate directly in a long-term study of Squam Lake, and carry out a yearly phenology study of the many trees on the school’s 600-acre campus. “I’m really proud of that because I pushed hard, really hard, for experiential and place-based learning,” Maggie says. “Now they’re part of the curriculum and it’s great to see.”
 
Maggie also served as the director of sustainability at a pivotal time for the school. During her tenure as director, she worked as an organizer and liaison on a number of sustainability projects, including a campus-wide energy audit of school buildings; the LEED-certification of the Woodward and Pichette dorms; the construction of the school’s biomass plant; the installation of solar panels on the new ice rink; and the construction of a second, 460-kilowatt solar array on campus in 2021. Through it all, she made it a point to incorporate the projects into the school’s formal science curriculum. When the school announced its plans to build a 99-kilowatt solar array atop its new ice rink in 2014, for example, Maggie’s students came up with a design that was within 4 percent of the energy output predicted by the professional designer the school hired. “We used basic math, a few simple programs, and their ingenuity, and they came up with just about what the professional designer did, even though the building wasn’t there yet,” Maggie says. “So that was pretty cool.”
 
It's safe to say that Maggie will keep busy in retirement. She’s a member of the Pemi-Baker Search and Rescue Team, which responds to lost and injured hikers in the White Mountains. She also hopes to continue the ecological volunteer work she did during her Henderson Brewer van Otterloo Chair Year, when she traveled the world assisting with research studies on koalas in Australia, sharks in Belize, sea turtles in the Bahamas, and pollinators in Costa Rica. Oh, and she’s also maintained her medical license. “In the back of my mind I’ve thought it would be really great to be able to use the medical degree and be affiliated in some sort of teaching and medical supervisory way over programs like that, that are ecologically based,” Maggie says.
 
As she leaves Holderness, Maggie – never one to tout her extensive accomplishments - says she regrets not doing more to instill an environmental ethos at a school-wide level. Her hope is that students and teachers will move away from thinking about how climate change will affect their own lives and the school, and start thinking about steps they can take to mitigate climate change. “I’m hoping that there is a more widespread effort to instill the environmental ethos in everyone and I don’t mean just loving the outdoors,” Maggie says. “I mean respecting it and thinking about the future.”
 

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