After nearly two score years in education, ALPLM Volunteer Ed Preston’s professional background more than prepared him for the museum’s varied volunteer positions. An instructor of American history, world geography and cultures, and English to middle and high school students, Ed was accustomed to having interactions with school children. These prior encounters certainly helped him engage with the countless school groups that typically visit the museum every year.
As an educator, Ed is a strong supporter of the Volunteer Service Department’s central aim of teaching history and enhancing the visitor experience. “The public face of ALPLM is about sharing and enriching the experience of all our visitors as much as we can; that is what makes the museum so special,” he revealed.
Spending most of his career in Jacksonville, Ill., Ed’s extended tenure within the school district availed him chances to lead additional extracurricular programs and events which were personally rewarding. “In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I was advisor to the school newspaper and yearbook and spent a few years teaching and volunteering in the gifted education program – including organizing the first 'Saturday School' focusing on enrichment for gifted junior high students.”
He also assists the Morgan County Food Bank and as a lector and Eucharistic Minister at Our Saviour’s Church.
Following a friendly nudge from his wife, Mary, the couple decided to check out the volunteer options at the ALPLM and joined the program in 2015. To date, they have donated over 1,000 service hours between them.
“It has been one of the best experiences of my retirement and volunteer work,” he stated. “This is because we are constantly seeing the ALPLM through the fresh eyes of young people and new visitors. Theirs is a well of curiosity that sustains our joy in talking about and showing them the ALPLM.”
As a military history enthusiast, Ed possesses a keen interest in traveling to historical locations, especially Civil War battlefields. He also is a student of World War II history and indicated a special connection as his father served in Europe with General Patton’s army. Ed balances this pastime with travel and recreational reading too. “In the Spring of 2018, Mary and I went on our first cruise (to Alaska) and were blown away,” he said. “I would go again in a minute! The whales, eagles, sea lions, Glacier Bay!”
The chance to meet and work with new people and to share a love of history is just one reason that Ed cherishes his volunteer work. He views the museum as a living treasure that is constantly revealing something new and interesting or a reminder of something familiar. Ed also appreciates the friendships that he has made with fellow Thursday afternoon volunteers and is thankful that the Volunteer Service Department is offering daily Zoom meetings, which helps him stay connected to his ALPLM friends.
In these difficult pandemic months, Ed has spent most of his time reading, although television draws him in, too. “I think that I have burned through most of the Netflix catalog and it appears that I only have movies from India and Turkey left to view,” he joked.
A common thread of educating and encouraging others is evident throughout Ed’s life. However, like many who give of themselves, Ed is quick to note the reciprocal effects of giving to others. “I look forward to soon going back to volunteer work at the ALPLM, Food Bank, and my church because these places have become such an enriching and sustaining part of my life," he said.