Yale University

Working at Yale

Q&A Mary Herring

MaryHYears at Yale: 45
First job at Yale:
Washing and sterilizing glassware for labs at the School of Medicine, Therapeutic Radiology
Enjoys reading, fishing and spending time with her sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews. Friends say she is a great cook and she is famous for her cheesecake.

Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Mary Herring came to New Haven in 1963. Four years later, after graduating from Wilbur Cross High School, she began working at the University. On October 16, 2012, Herring reached her 45-year anniversary at Yale. As a laboratory assistant, Herring makes sure that research scientists in Therapeutic Radiology have a steady supply of clean glassware and solutions for conducting experiments. Today her office is at 15 York Street, Hunter Radiation Therapy Building.

Working@Yale had the chance to talk with Herring (see interview below) and also had the pleasure of meeting Carolyn Garnett, a friend of 25 years who also works at the University. Garnett said some things that made Herring smile: “She’s a giver; yes, she is a giver. Anything she sees she can do to help, she will. She loves to help people. And she’s told me many times that working at Yale has been a beautiful experience for her. She has learned a lot.”

Mary, what does your job entail?
When I first started working at the School of Medicine in Therapeutic Radiology, I was just sterilizing glassware for the labs. After about 10 years, I went over to Gibbs Laboratory with one of my supervisors. There I met Judy Stein and she began teaching me how to make the solutions that are used in the experiments and I took that on. Eventually I came back over to Therapeutic Radiology and today I provide glassware and solutions for 11 Yale labs.

Why did you come to New Haven from Richmond, Virginia?
My oldest sister, Cora, she came up here first. She left her baby with my mother and I and we looked after the baby until she got settled.  When Cora found a place, she asked me to bring the baby up. She didn’t have a babysitter, so I stayed and helped her out. I also went to high school – Cora made sure I graduated.

How did you come to work at Yale?
Well, first I had a job at American Linen on Lock Street. And then my sister, Cora Winn, got a job at Yale in the Cancer Center. She worked a year before I was hired. Then there was an opening and I got a call. My sister ended up spending her whole career at Yale and is now retired.

Are any other members of your family in New Haven?
I have a brother and another sister here in New Haven. My sister, Emmie McCargo, works at the Bass Building. My brother, who did not work at Yale, is retired and living in a senior citizen building in New Haven. I’m one of 12 children. My mother had 7 boys and 5 girls. I’m the sixth child. Cora’s the oldest and Emmie’s the baby. My parents and eight of my siblings stayed down in Virginia. Today, there are only five of us kids left and my parents have passed on.

You’ve always been close to your family, to your sisters and brothers?
Yes. We’ve been there for each other in different ways. My sister Cora is kind of sick right now so I see her every day and do errands for her. Cora’s son and his kids are always checking up on me to see if I need anything because I live alone – right across the street from them in fact. My youngest sister, Emmie, comes to stay with me whenever I get sick.

How do you feel about being recognized for your 45 years at Yale?
It’s really nice. When I first started and got to five years, I ordered the bracelet. And at ten years, I got a set of pens. And it has just gotten better and better. This time around, I chose the camera. I have both of the Yale chairs -- the rocker and the regular one. I have the rocker in my bedroom, beside my bed, and when I go home I sit in it and relax. The other chair is in my computer room. I love to rock and read a book. I love to read. I also like to fish.

Who taught you how to fish?
My father, when I was a kid. He took us fishing all the time, in the summertime, on weekends. I also went with my friend and my brothers.

What is it about fishing that you like so much?
It relaxes me.

Do you have a favorite memory about fishing?
I loved to go fishing with my father in the James River in Virginia. I remember that well. I also remember that when we missed a fish, he got mad (laughs). This was probably because we were fishing for our food. We mainly caught bass, croakers and spots.

Who do you think has inspired you the most in life?
My superviser Joann Sweasy has inspired me. She’s more like a sister than a supervisor. If I get sick, if I need something, she’s right there. If I need to go to the doctor, she’ll take me. We’ve worked together ever since I came back to the School of Medicine from the Gibbs Laboratory over 20 years ago.

Is there anyone else?
Dr. Brooks Low. He’s always there for me. Whenever I do something well, he always compliments me. And there is Tammie Gray. She is another person who is always there for me. Whenever there is anything that I don't understand, I call Tammie and she helps me.

You feel like Yale has become your family?
Yes, everyone in my life at Yale seems to be crazy about me. I didn’t know this until one morning Joann told me they had a group meeting, and in that meeting everyone said how much they appreciate me. It sure makes you want to come to work when people appreciate you like that. It makes me feel very good.