Accommodations manager Peterson plans retirement following 2014 season

After 13 years at Chautauqua Institution, accommodations manager Myra Peterson plans to retire following the 2014 season.

Peterson began working at Chautauqua in the maintenance department in 2001, implementing a barcode system for the Institution. After working in maintenance for five years, Peterson said that the job “was not busy enough” for her, so she decided to apply for the assistant position within what was then the Department of Institution Relations.

Once in marketing, Peterson quickly took on the task of handling the Institution’s accommodations for first time, as well as returning visitors. Eventually, when the amount of people using the accommodations website increased, from about 100 people to 400 people, Peterson became the full-time accommodations manager.

“People come to me and say, ‘This is my first time in Chautauqua, I love here and I want to come back next season with my friends and family,’ ” Peterson said. “So I help them find the perfect place for them.”

Peterson said that she enjoys getting to know the people she’s helping with accommodations, because she feels that it allows her to find them the best fit for their stay on the grounds.

Each day, Peterson sees about 30 to 35 people as the accommodations manager in the Visitors Center in  the Post Office Building. Starting Oct. 1, Peterson will officially retire full-time, but continue to work as the accommodations manager part time, three days a week.   

“Her attitude is just, ‘we’ve got to get it done and get it done right,’ which makes her so great, in addition to being so welcoming,” said George Murphy, vice president and chief marketing officer. “She’s not only accommodations manager, she is also resident psychiatrist, a counselor for younger kids, a cheerleader for those who are down, and our customer service face.”

But, in addition to working for the Institution, Peterson is involved in a variety of organizations related to Chautauqua outside of the Institution grounds.

Currently in the Colonnade, Peterson runs “Myra Mart,” a snack station for Institution employees in the Colonnade.

The idea for Myra Mart originated when Peterson worked in maintenance, where there was no snack machine for the employees. Because the program was so successful, Peterson brought Myra Mart with her to the Colonnade.

“I simply buy things at Sam’s Club and add a quarter to everything,” Peterson said. “Then each quarter as a staff we vote and donate the money to a specific charity or organization.”

This quarter, Myra Mart has raised about $190 that will be donated to Meals on Wheels. Each year, proceeds from Myra Mart total about $700 donated to different charities and organizations, all raised by adding just a quarter to snacks.

Peterson is also the treasurer and liaison for Chautauqua Institution with the Chautauqua Trail, a network of 17 different Chautauquas across the United States and Canada. Each of the chapters are formed around the same four pillars as the Institution, creating programs around arts, education, recreation and religion.

“It’s kind of funny,” Peterson said when comparing Chautauqua Institution to the other Chautauqua communities. “They all have a bell tower.”

Next year, the annual meetings for the 17 Chautauquas on the Trail will be held at Chautauqua Institution. Peterson said that information concerning the Chautauqua Trail could be found at http://www.chautauquatrail.com.

Since coming to Chautauqua, Peterson has worn many hats, some professionally, and others just because of her amiability.

“I have always just taken care of people,” Peterson said.