The gift of life

Mark Sheely '73
Director of educational services, Richland Newhope
Major: education

A heart for children.
A first-generation college graduate, Mark knew since the eighth grade that he wanted to be a teacher. "I had excellent teachers in school, and I knew I wanted to be just like them," he says. He attributes Bluffton education professor Emerson Miller with fueling his passion.Mark Sheely

Winding Bluffton sidewalks.
Mark met his wife, Penny (Wolczyk '72) Sheely, on a campus sidewalk. They dated all four years and have been married "for 35 wonderful years." They have three sons, one daughter and four grandchildren.

Making good on a promise.
After Bluffton, Mark spent two years as a special education teacher before beginning his master's degree in administration at the University of Akron. At graduation, Mark remembered the night he graduated from Plymouth High School when his superintendent told him that he'd have a job waiting for Mark when he came back to town. "I called him looking for a job in elementary education, and he practically hired me on the spot."

With age comes wisdom.
Mark spent a year teaching sixth graders. He was then offered the elementary principal position. He accepted and, at age 25, became the youngest principal in the state of Ohio during the 1976-77 academic year. He would go on to spend 27 years as an elementary principal.

Working in retirement.
Having no interest in retirement, Mark became the director of educational services at Richland Newhope—Richland County's MR/DD board—three months after "retiring." In high school and through college, he had worked summers at Richland Newhope's day camp, so he was quite familiar with the organization. "I'd work at camp during the day and at a local factory at night," says Mark. "That's how I got through college."

Serving others.
Currently, Mark supervises all services for children ages birth through five years who are handicapped—350 in total. He oversees 55 employees, a daycare and early intervention and preschool programs at three sites. He says the most rewarding part of his job is working with young parents. "For young parents to find out that a child has multiple handicaps is very difficult," says Mark. "I have excellent staff that works well with the parents and children."

The best Christmas gift ever.
Mark was diagnosed with diabetes in 1991 was told that he would possibly need a kidney transplant. At Christmas 2006, Mark says his family was waist-deep in wrapping paper when his son David Sheely '99 presented him with the last gift: a letter from the transplant office saying David's kidney was a perfect match. The Sheelys underwent surgery on July 3, 2007, and Mark says he's never felt better. "It's fantastic! I have energy that I used to never have. It really is a miracle and truly a blessing."