TROY — The end of an era — almost three decades — will come to the Troy-Hayner Culture Center with the retirement of its executive director.
Linda Lee Jolly, who has been with the center for 28 years, will retire at the end of August.
After the last several years of Hayner being busier than ever and some family commitments, Jolly said she is looking forward to just taking a step back for a moment.
“The first thing I’m looking forward to is just taking in a big breath,” she said.
Jolly was hired as the executive director of the the Troy-Cultural Hayner Center in 1990, when the center was in its 14th year. She said upon her arrival it was well-organized, with exhibits, concerts, classes and workshops already taking place. However, she said the Hayner Board of Governors felt like area residents weren’t aware or taking advantage of what was being offered.
She said she was at the right place at the right time to find the job of her dreams — but she almost didn’t make the interview.
“Let’s start with God for putting me in the right place at the right time. I prayed for a job in Miami County where I would have time to enjoy my country home and ‘go to the things at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center.’ Then, my friend Diana, who likes to take credit for finding the job in the paper and helping me update my resume,” she said. “Then, there is Dr. Bentley, who treated my abscessed tooth on the morning of my interview.”
She then got to work.
“I did a lot of listening, kicked up the marketing plans and got a lot of volunteers involved in the planning to build audiences,” Jolly said. “As participation grew, the ideas just kept coming.”
Jolly said one noticeable change at the center has been the constant addition of more and more electricity at the Hayner Center. She said at first it was just to increase lighting, but then the center needed more to keep up with technology. Then the service had to be expanded for the outdoor lighting and the installation of the modern HVAC.
“The challenge has always been to maintain the beauty and historic ambience of the Hayner mansion while ensuring that it is ready for modern use. The restoration is ongoing,” she said. “An old house always needs something and the volunteers want it to be first-class. Grants and the support of Friends of Hayner help make that happen. No one looking at the inside could imagine that it is really over 100 years old.”
Of course, programming has expanded, according to Jolly. She said volunteers, participants and staff are always coming up with new ideas.
“I can remember running one of the first concerts that was already booked when I took the job. It was a Sunday afternoon and 12 people showed up,” she said. “Now we have a full house at almost every event. Hayner was the first organization to bring ‘Hotel California’ to town and it turned out to be one of the largest events ever to be held on the square.”
Today, the center hosts more than 40,000 visitors a year to its ever-growing number of offerings, which include several concert series, a film series, a Rhythm & Roots music festival, a photography competition, three weeks of summer art day camp, home school art classes, a Valentine’s dinner and show, Cabernet & Cabaret Broadway sing-alongs, Hayner Hits the Road bus trips, and more.
“Fresh ideas just keep coming. I am looking forward to the Art’s Alive at the Hayner Festival on Aug. 4 and there will be a Funk Party on Sept. 1. The Hayner belongs to the people. I have said from the beginning that it will be here long after I am gone,” Jolly said. “The board has done a great job with their succession planning. Hayner has an excellent staff, a strong volunteer base and great community support. I am sure it will continue to be a vital part of the Troy community.”
Jolly said surrounding herself with hard-working, trustworthy people has only been a boon for the center. She said most of the members of the board that hired her have even continued to volunteer and have been very supportive.
“I can’t name names because I would leave out some people who have become very dear to me. Hayner has so many dedicated volunteers — some who have actively served over 40 years. Every year, we meet new people who are equally enthusiastic and supportive. Hayner is such a great place to work, staff tend to stay for a long time,” she said. “I have had the opportunity to work with some very talented and creative people. I have made so many good friends and happy memories, I truly believe I am walking away with much more than I have given.”
Although Jolly has been credited with much of the success of growing the center into the art and cultural hub it is today, she is quick to share the glory.
“I don’t see the achievements as mine. I think my success has been my ability to take hold of an idea or a dream and then to bring the right people together to develop it,” she said. “After that, it is just the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it happen. It has always been a group effort.”
If she was to pick among her proudest achievements, however, she said projects earlier in her career such as achieving handicapped accessibility and renovating the Art Studio were very important.
“It was great to be a part of the development of Friends of Hayner, the driveway and landscape projects and the acquisition of the Hayner Distillery collections,” Jolly said. “The most fun had to be all of the events of the Hayner Mansion Centennial celebration in 2014, especially Hayner Days and the lighting of the house.”
After taking a moment following her retirement, Jolly wants to continue to experience the world and will start this fall with a trip to Maine.
“I want to see the world, one adventure at a time,” she said.
A musician who plays both the hammered dulcimer and the mountain dulcimer, Jolly joked that they also are “patiently awaiting my return.”
“I also have flower gardens that have been too much for a working person to keep up with,” she said. “Retirement comes with a SilverSneakers membership and I love to hike and be outdoors. The world has too much to experience in one lifetime.
“I am just hoping to seize every day and make the most of it.”
Jolly said her successor, David Wion, was hired as part of the board’s succession planning in 2014. Rachael Boezi is the new assistant director.
“(Wion) probably doesn’t need any more advice from me, except what I would tell everyone in every job: ‘Commit your work to the Lord and you will be blessed.’”
She said Wion has what it takes to be successful at the position, including a background in music, volunteerism and finance, and “is very personable.”
“I am confident that he will provide the leadership needed to keep Hayner going and growing,” she said.
While the lack of her daily duties at the center will be an adjustment — the people she has made relationships with are what she believes she will miss the most.
“I think I will miss most the joy of just being here and being with the people on a daily basis,” Jolly said. “Fortunately, the best part of Hayner is that it is free and open to the public, so I can come back whenever I want and be as involved as I want to be.
They are always looking for volunteers,” she said.