Mason Beuhring, Communications & Program Services Director at Marietta Community Foundation, sits down with Mike Buell, member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, to get to know this prominent community member.
Mason Beuhring: So Mike, let’s start off by you telling me a bit about yourself.
Mike Buell: I grew up in Marietta. My dad was a Speech professor at Marietta College until 1976 and then he left to be Dean of Wilmington College.
Since my dad was a professor I took advantage of the tuition waiver and attended Marietta College. After that I went on to The University of Toledo for law school and then came back to Marietta to practice law until the end of 2015.
Mason: What kind of law did you focus on?
Mike: Well, we had a small firm. I was on my own for a while, but I and three colleagues decided to join forces. Eventually, it went down to two, me and Dennis Sipe. I handled almost all of the domestic relations, but I also focused on estate planning, real estate, and oil & gas.
Mason: A few months ago, the Foundation collaborated with a few organizations to help bring a supply of extra food to local food pantries. One of the organizations we collaborated with was Harvest of Hope, an organization where you are a weekly volunteer. What other organizations do you volunteer with?
Mike: I have volunteered quite a bit ever since I came back from law school 30 years ago. I was on boards for a lot of organizations that aren’t even around anymore. Currently, in addition to Harvest of Hope, I have been a 30 plus year member of the Lion’s Club; I’m very active in that.
Mason: A lot of people view retirement as a time to kick back, relax, and take it easy. Why did you choose to spend your retirement volunteering?
Mike: If you stop working 40 hours a week that is a major segment of your time. I never wanted to look at retirement and say ‘now I get to stop working and focus on what I want to do, when I want to do it.’ That shouldn’t be about what life is. My dad and mom were always service oriented and so it has always been natural.
It gives you a broader perspective on life and lets you know what is going on in your community. I feel connected with this community the more I get involved with different things.
I also volunteer up at the prison in Noble County. We take a 12 step program into the prison for the inmates. I serve on the board for Habitat for Humanity, and I’m the Local Sending Coordinator for American Field Service, which is a high school student foreign exchange program. That is how I came to have a scholarship set-up through the Foundation to help find students to go abroad. Many students don’t have the assets to go abroad and so we are trying to help stimulate that.
Mason: And that scholarship is the Felicia Buell Year Abroad Scholarship which helps local students experience a year immersed in a different culture?
Mike: Yes, my sister, Felicia, loved to travel. Speaking from experience, if there are any Marietta High School students who would be interested in studying abroad this would be a great opportunity.
I was an exchange student in high school. At 17 years old I flew to New York, was put on a plane with a bunch of other students, flew overseas to Norway, and lived in a home with people I didn’t know who spoke a language I didn’t speak. Things like that give you confidence.
Mason: Outside of volunteering do you have any hobbies?
Mike: My wife and I travel quite a bit. Three times in the last six or seven years we have driven west for three weeks or more. We take back roads and go up and down the Rocky Mountains.
We have been to Scotland, Norway, Ireland, Curacao, and Costa Rica. This year, in one trip, we are going to Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Prague, Budapest, Lake Bled, South Tyrol in Italy, and Lake Como. We booked it ourselves and it should take a little over a month!
Mason: Is there a specific location that has been your favorite so far?
Mike: We have been back to Norway since I was a student and, as I mentioned before, we are going back again. When I was an exchange student there, I lived on the Southeastern side and people didn’t travel much back then. So when we went back we drove through the Western Fjords [pronounced fee-yord-s]. There is a place above the town of Geiranger, and it is about one-mile high and roughly one-mile from the end of the Geirangerfjord. It is absolutely unbelievable to stand there looking out over the mountain tops of Norway, and yet one mile straight down is the end of the fjord, which is ocean level.
Mason: With this being your first year serving on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, how has your experience been thus far?
Mike: It’s been very good. I’m very impressed by how involved the board members are. Frankly, the level of intelligence on this board is pretty high! I’m impressed by some of the discussions that go on. You hear the kind of things that show a long term commitment to the community.
Mason: Is there is one thing you would like people to know about the Foundation, what would that be?
Mike: The amount of things the Foundation supports to make Washington County attractive and vibrant. In all the travels I do, I see the decline in ‘Small Town America.’ I think the Foundation does a great job in making the county more attractive for people to want to come here.