Life has prepared Mary Ellbogen Garland (BS '84, JD '09) in surprising ways for the demands of her position—chair and president of the John P. Ellbogen Foundation and director for the Ruth R. Ellbogen Foundation.
"I think I have the best job in the world," says Garland, "It is rewarding and provides many challenges." The John P. Ellbogen Foundation was established in 2001 when Garland's father John "Jack" Ellbogen passed away. The foundation's mission is to create or cause change, primarily for the benefit of the people of the state of Wyoming, through the support of science, education, and charity.
A few of the many initiatives created and/or supported by this foundation include National Board teacher certification; the Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award that rewards teacher excellence; the Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning that provides faculty leadership, support, and development; the John P. Ellbogen Foundation Entrepreneurship Competition Excellence Fund in the College of Business; and the College of Engineering's Next Generation Program.
The Ruth R. Ellbogen Foundation, funded by Garland's mother, supports international experiences for students and faculty, art museum programs, and the Honor a Teacher scholarship, among others.
"Maybe one of these days we'll have something going in every college on campus," Garland says with a smile.
Garland credits her success to growing up in Wyoming. "Wyoming's in my blood," she says. Like her mother, Ruth, she was born and raised in Casper, and community support, security, and adult mentorship established a firm footing upon which to grow. "Wyoming offers a tremendous quality of life. I am blessed to have spent almost all my years here," Garland says. "That's a piece of the puzzle."
Another piece is her father's respect for his mother, who was a schoolteacher in Worland. "My dad had high regard for his mother," says Garland, "and love of learning came from her." That passion for education ripples through the generations of Ellbogens and shows itself in Garland's and the foundations' focus on excellence in education.
Garland attended Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the big island for three of her four years of high school. It challenged her in many ways—academically, socially, and emotionally—but, like many of her experiences, she is better for it.
"It was an incredible academic experience," she says. "Each and every day I was accountable for my learning. I had to be responsive and ready for class. It took me ten years to realize what a true gift this was."
During high school and since, her parents provided her with opportunities to travel the world. "They did a good job of connecting me outside Wyoming, broadening my horizons," she says.
Then Garland returned to Wyoming and to UW to get her college degree. "I mostly had a lot of fun," she admits with a wry smile, but she soon received her bachelor's in marketing from the College of Business. It's a degree that she hasn't used in a conventional way, but it's been invaluable in her current work.
"The vast majority of what I do for the foundation is marketing," Garland says. "It's about networking. It's about bringing people together. It's about trying to put resources together to have the greatest positive impacts for the people of Wyoming."
While at UW, she met Rob Garland (BS '82, MS '96). They married and had two boys, Spencer and James, both of whom are now UW students. The family moved away from Laramie because jobs were scarce, but they soon returned because they wanted their sons to have the benefit of being raised in Wyoming. "Someday they'll think so too," she jokes.
Garland stayed home to raise the boys and became involved in the community. Among the many projects she took on was Laramie's outdoor pool project, which grew into what is now the Laramie Community Recreation Center. She has served on the board of the University of Wyoming Foundation as well as other boards on campus.
"Understanding the grantee side of the equation has been really beneficial as a grantor," Garland says.
Another important aspect of success is the support and collaboration Garland and the foundations have received. "I say 'I' loosely, because there are a lot of people who have helped to get this work done," Garland says. "It doesn't happen in isolation—it happens when you find other people who have similar interests, similar passions, similar missions and visions."
Rae Lynn Job spent her career in education and served in the state senate before becoming the John P. Ellbogen Foundation's vice president, and her support has been vital. "She walks every pace with me," says Garland. "We complement each other."
Garland is also quick to mention the fantastic support of the Wyoming State Legislature, including the state matching program and partnerships with state leadership. Garland says: "We have the same mission. We do it in different capacities, but our mission's the same. It's about the people in Wyoming." Garland was also a member of the inaugural class of Leadership Wyoming, which helped her make those connections.
Above all, Garland's parents have been the biggest influence in her life: "Frankly, they paved the path for me. They set the stepping stones all along the way that prepared me to lead in my current capacity. And that all came with a huge dose of encouragement. They have been exceedingly generous with both their time and resources. I learned about giving back from them."
She continues, "Now I have the awesome responsibility to carry on Dad's legacy. I hear his voice, and he is always asking me to get out of my comfort zone, search out opportunities. And I am honored to work and play with my mom. We have lots of fun together."
“It's about networking. It's about bringing people together. It's about trying to put resources together to have the greatest positive impacts for the people of Wyoming."” - Mary Garland