For many people, the seed for their future career is planted at a young age. Carol Leone, who recently retired after 17 years as the executive director of the Museum at Warm Springs, is one of those people.
As a child, Leone, who loved reading books about children from other countries, vividly remembers hearing about the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, in San Jose, California, and begging to be taken. When she was finally taken to the museum, she was fascinated, but it would be decades before her love of museums and anthropology could fully bloom.
Born in Oakland, California, in 1943, Leone grew up in the small town of Sebastopol, California, where she graduated from high school in 1960, and was married the following year.
Over the next nine years, she and her former husband had four children and moved four times — from Petaluma, California, to Sebastopol, to Grants Pass, where her two youngest were born, and then to Riverside, California.
In Riverside, with her children in school, she worked part time in public relations for Camp Fire, took night classes in art, and worked as a teacher's aid, while raising her children and helping with the family's small horse ranch.
"I did the college thing backwards," said Leone.
In 1974, the family moved outside Peoria, Arizona, where they also had a small horse ranch, and she worked for small ceramics company, as the production manager.
When her three oldest children were out of high school, she and her youngest daughter moved to Santa Cruz, California, where she stayed with her aunt, and was hired by the city as the records clerk.
Initially, she set out to take classes to earn a legal assistant certificate, but realized that it would make more sense to actually work on a degree. Through night classes at Cabrillo College, in Aptos, California, she studied archaeology, anthropology, writing and history.
"I had the opportunity to go to Montana on an archaeological dig," she said. "It really made me very, very interested in that work. I was doing sketches of artifacts; it was a good adventure."
After completing certain classes, she was able to transfer directly into the University of California Santa Cruz, through which she was able to participate in a dig in the San Jose area, where a shopping center was going in.
"They found a village and a burial ground," she said, noting that under California law, a Native American monitor had to be present during the dig. "The experience made me realize I was more interested in cultural anthropology."
In 1991, Leone earned a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology, and in 1992, went to work at the Museum of Northern Arizona, in Flagstaff, "as the world's oldest intern."
Leone became the director of the Heritage Program, which coordinated Native American art markets with the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni people, created a Hispanic Heritage show and market for the Hispanic community, arranged internships for Native American college students, and curated special exhibits.
Leone earned a scholarship to attend Arizona State University, in nearby Tempe, and in 1995, graduated cum laude with a Master of Science in Cultural Anthropology, and a certificate in museum administration — all while continuing to work at the museum.
"It was funny going to college at the same time as two of my kids," she said, noting that her second youngest child, and only son, Patrick Hart, was majoring in aerospace engineering at ASU at the time. "He tutored me in math, and I proofread his essays." He is now an aeronautical engineer in Livermore, California.
At the same time, her youngest daughter, Nikki Hart, was attending San Jose State University, where she studied photo journalism. She now lives in San Francisco, and works as a graphic designer.
Leone's oldest daughter, Mary Hart, lives in Iowa, and second oldest, Denise Neitch, in Glendale, Arizona.
After nearly nine years at the museum, a change in leadership made Leone consider other options. When a friend, who was working as a development consultant for the Museum at Warm Springs, called and asked if she knew anyone who might be interested in the executive director position there, she was quick with her response. "I said, 'That would be me,'" said Leone.
Over the next weeks, she submitted her application and was selected for two in-person interviews, where she had the opportunity to stay at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort. "I thought, 'This is an amazing resort,'" she said.
When she was offered the job, Leone was delighted. "It felt right," she said. "I had been more middle management; they took a chance on me."
In February 2002, she started work at the museum, where she remained until her retirement in November. "It was my honor and pleasure to work with a talented and committed staff team and supportive board of directors and regents," she said.
During her tenure at the Museum at Warm Springs, the museum hosted exhibits with local artists, such as Lillian Pitt's "Spirits Keep Whistling Me Home"; was the only museum off the Lewis and Clark Trail to host a Lewis and Clark exhibit; and as part of the museum's 25th anniversary celebration, just before her retirement, hosted the "Middle Oregon Treaty of 1855 Display," which gave the public the opportunity to see six pages from the original treaty that formed the Warm Springs Reservation.
Leone considers the museum as "a place where they can begin to get a feel for where they are living."
"The museum is like a wonderful basket to keep these heirlooms we really need to preserve," she said, adding that in addition to art and artifacts, the museum preserves papers, movies and oral histories, which are being digitized.
In retirement, Leone is doing more artwork, including a couple pieces currently on display at Art Adventure Gallery for the "Birding Without Borders" exhibit. She is also an avid vegetable gardener.
"Granted, the growing season is a bit tricky for gardening ... but challenges keep it interesting," she said.
Leone, who has eight grandchildren, enjoys sharing her Madras home with her granddaughter, Cameron Mortensen, who is teaching music at Metolius Elementary, as part of the Americorps Program.
"(There are) many wonderful, talented, caring folks in the area," said Leone, who intends to stay in the community. "I plan to continue recapturing my skills as an artist, catch up on reading, try my hand at writing, and help out in the community through Rotary, the (Jefferson County) Historical Society, and the Arts an Crafts Alliance of Central Oregon."
Although Leone's path has taken her to a variety of locations, each step has reinforced her interest in people and their cultures. "It's been an adventure in a lot of ways," she said. "I've learned a lot from living in different communities."
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