A Conversation with Sally S. Mueller, '83: Lifelong Learner and Loyal Donor
Sally Schweitzer Mueller ’83 of Canandaigua, New York, recently spoke with Gift Officer Robin Mazejka about why she has chosen to give to Alfred University each and every year for over 40 years.
Sally enrolled in AU’s Business Administration program in the fall of 1979. Because she was a non-traditional age student, she arrived already armed with another degree, considerable life experience, and a deep understanding of how education could transform not only an individual, but an entire family.
Sally’s father, Austin Schweitzer, grew up in rural Iowa at the start of the 20th century. Austin’s father hired him out as a farmhand, so his school time was limited. He left home at the age of 16 and headed to Montana, stayed one year, then headed on to California. Austin ended up a barber and owned a barber shop in San Francisco.
Sally’s parents met when her mother, Sarah, was in chiropractic school. Sarah was divorced with two young sons, and was working towards a career to support the boys. It was unusual at the time for a woman to achieve a career that could support her family.
Sally was born in California just before the Great Depression. Unfortunately, Sarah died when Sally was born, so she was raised by her father, with the help of her mother’s older sister, Carol McDaniel. Because Sally’s Aunt Carol had not been able to attend school past the eighth grade, she put a premium on education for the next generation.
Both of Sally’s parents had valued education and had pushed their children to earn degrees. Sally’s half-brother Owen (17 years her elder) and her other half-brother Bill (15 years her elder) both became civil engineers.
By the time Sally was 16, she had graduated Hayward Union High School. She explained that there was not a lot of guidance in those days as to what she should major in to be able to actually “do something”. However, the path her family put her on was always to go to college, so she never thought about not going.
Sally went to the University of California at Berkley and majored in Political Science, earning her BA at the age of 19! There weren’t a lot of job options at that point, considering women usually became secretaries, nurses, school teachers, or homemakers. In retrospect, Sally feels that she would have gotten a lot more out of these years if she had been at AU.
During the World War II years, Sally met Edward Eugene “Gene” Mueller in California, who was enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the time. Sally and Gene married and moved several times in the following years to pursue their educational and professional goals while raising a family.
Gene earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri, Rolla, his M.S. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University, and pursued a career in the ceramics industry. Meanwhile, Sally worked in banking. Later, while working in Maryland as the head of Research and Production at Pemco (then Glidden), Gene started taking in research candidates for Glidden from Alfred University, and he soon got to know our top program and beautiful campus.
The 1960s was a decade of great changes and transitions at Alfred, as everywhere. Leadership was in flux, counter-culture was making its way to the region, and Gene was glad to take on the role of Dean of the College of Ceramics and Professor of Ceramic Engineering during this exciting time.
Sally was very busy as the mother of three children, Patricia, David, and Richard, while hosting regular, large social gatherings for faculty and students at their home. The Muellers wanted to make sure that every student felt welcome.
While the duties of a faculty wife and mother were many, Sally was inspired to advance her education with the encouragement of professors such as the late Dr. Ernie Enke, who convinced Sally that tax accounting might actually be fun. Sally enrolled in 1979 and took everything from accounting to art history. She joined the Phi Kappa Phi and Delta Mu Delta honor societies, served as financial adviser to Sigma Chi Nu, and graduated summa cum laude from AU with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1983.
The Mueller’s three children, who had all taken AU classes during their senior years of high school, all went on to earn advanced degrees and pursue rewarding careers.
While the Alfred community mourns the loss of Gene Mueller, who passed away last February, we celebrate his many lasting contributions to our beloved school, and we are very grateful to Sally for her continued support.
Sally now enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren and three great grand-children, and continues to spread her message that a good education is valuable for its own sake: “It doesn’t matter what you do with the rest of your life, education opens a lot of opportunities to you. This is both in your personal and professional life…remember it is for the rest of your life.” Sally feels that everyone should have the opportunity that she was afforded.