2010 Women of Influence: Mary Ann Nielsen
Saturday, July 31, 2010 7:00 AM
Her bag is pink. Her purse is pink. Her outfit is pink. Even her pens are pink.
It's quite pink, er, clear, why her AIB College of Business co-workers call her the pink lady. In fact, when Mary Ann Nielsen was in the hospital recovering from an operation, about 20 women from work all dressed up in pink, took a picture and then sent it along with a container full of all sorts of pink items to help her recover.
As if she needed more pink.
But soon it might be a little, OK a lot less colorful around the AIB office.
Nielsen, the college's senior director of advancement, will be retiring at the end of August. Nielsen, who among other duties interacts with government officials and works to maintain the Iowa tuition grant, hasn't had the time yet to fully think about her impending retired life.
But she knows that leaving after more than a decade of service to AIB will be tough.
"I think as the time gets closer, it is going to be harder and harder and harder," Nielsen said. "You take ownership, and you get enmeshed into whatever it is you are doing. And it is hard to give it up."
So hard that she won't be giving it up completely. Nielsen will still be helping out in a part-time capacity as she's needed after her retirement.
She won't be retiring, however, from her philanthropic way of life.
Nielsen has sat on a variety of boards and committees and has been a volunteer for countless organizations and initiatives - 25 were listed on her resume, but don't be surprised if there are more than would fit the page.
Currently she is involved with a modest six organizations and is AIB's United Way chair. She's on the boards of directors of Iowa Dollars for Scholars, Mercy Auxiliary of Central Iowa and Everybody Wins! Iowa.
But it was her experience serving on the board of trustees of the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for Blind and Print Handicapped that opened Nielsen's eyes to the benefits of being involved with nonprofits. In 1996 when she became a part of the board, she wasn't sure what to expect but was clearly touched.
"They were so caring; they were so concerned in that case about blind individuals having the same access as you and I have," she said. "And I thought that was just so neat. So that is why I have really been so involved with nonprofit boards."
Nielsen is a two-time winner of the Governor's Volunteer Award and was the Johnston citizen of the year along with her husband in 2006. Despite her awards and constant involvement, Nielsen said she just isn't sure what she's going to do with all of her free time.
"I'll spend time with my three grandsons (twins age 2 and a 5-year old), I will definitely be doing that," she said. "You know, I'm going to blink and they are going to be in school."
As for what she wants to accomplish, she says she is just waiting to see what opportunities are out there.
Need someone for your nonprofit board? There's a candidate on the market with a whole lot of newfound time who will bring with her a bunch of experience.
And of course, more important, a splash of pink.
Education: Graduate of Simpson College in 1995, majoring in speech communication and management
Hometown: Fonda, Iowa
Family: Husband, Ron; son, Robert; daughter, Kate
Hobbies: Playing bridge, spending time with her three grandchildren and reading books, especially her favorite, "Gone With the Wind"
Words to live by: "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." - Sir Winston Churchill