This post is a salute to a dear personal friend and a dear friend of historic preservation. Next week, Nancy Miller Schamu ends another chapter in her professional career which has covered more than four decades. (Note, I do not use the word “retire,” which I have come to loathe as so many of my contemporaries approach that watershed.) Nancy will merely cease to take the train to Washington DC each day from her home in Baltimore’s Federal Hill. I am confident that her next adventure is right around the figurative corner and betting that it embraces some aspect of history or preservation, perhaps only less structured. With a graduate degree in history and at the dawn of historic preservation in Maryland, Nancy began her career at the Maryland Historical Trust, joining a tiny cadre of staff working under Maryland’s first State Historic Preservation Officer, Orlando Ridout IV. Not long after, I became her less-than-welcome office mate there, but together, we helped raise Maryland’s preservation movement to adolescence, having too much fun to consider it work, until she became Preservation Maryland’s executive director in 1982.
In 1985, Nancy headed for the Hall of the States in Washington DC to become the deputy director of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. Nancy will be feted by the NCSHPO as its members gather in Washington this week to observe Historic Preservation Advocacy Week. It will be hard to imagine the national preservation community without Nancy’s leadership, and I think ill advised. As she wrote to me not long ago, leaving her workplace of 27 years felt somewhat like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Nancy, you’ve got a very dependable and secure parachute in place: your experience and reputation. You’ll land softly and be about the next thing that interests you even before we can change your email address! As you, a great Francophile, might say, “Bonne chance!”