On August 22, 2021 the Michigan museum community lost one of the founding members of the Michigan Museums Association, Dr. Harold D. Mahan. To read more about his life as an educator and museum professional, please read his obituary. The Michigan Museums Association would like to express its sincere condolences to his family and friends, as well as those he mentored throughout his life.
Below is a personal reflection on the impact his mentorship had on Phillip Kwiatkowski, retired director, Michigan Historical Museum.
"Doc was my mentor. I met him when I was a student at Central Michigan University and began volunteering at the museum. I was trying to find and alternative to being a high school history teacher and one day I wandered into the museum on campus.
Doc’s door was open, as it always was, so I asked if I could talk with him about working in museums. He welcomed me in and that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Soon, I was volunteering in the museum, inventorying the historical artifacts the museum held. I was hooked. Because of him, I worked for over 40 years in the museum field. It was all because of him.
He basically got me my first job. Bay City needed a couple of people to help with exhibits over spring break. Doc was consulting with them and asked if I and Sue Bosworth, a great diorama artist, would like a job. That led to me becoming the Director of the Bay County Historical Museum in 1973.
Doc was never out of my reach though. He was always there for me. I can’t remember how many times I called him for advice. He always took my calls no matter what institution he was in charge. He never forgot his students. He was a great teacher.
He was also a person that wanted to advance the profession for students and young professionals. He encouraged us to be involved in the Michigan Museums Association as well as regional and national organizations. He was one of the founders of the MMA.
His obituary highlights his many accomplishments, but I’ll always remember Doc as a person with boundless energy, never sitting still, running around the museum, (he never walked) teaching students in museum practices, ornithology, animal behavior etc. His enthusiasm effected the lives and continued to affect the lives of hundreds if not thousands of individuals. He was, in my humble opinion, a great teacher and a true museum professional."