Ask about Peg Snyder to those who know her, and one will hear ringing endorsements.
She’s well organized. She’s kind. She’s patient. She has absolute recall and commitment.
Essentially, Snyder sounds like the perfect candidate for the job. But after she retires at the end of this season, that’s exactly what she’ll leave behind her.
Snyder manages the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Veranda. She’s been working with the CLSC for 16 years, and this is her ninth and final year of managing the Veranda.
Snyder and her staff are responsible for organizing CLSC membership records and keeping track of each member’s progress toward graduation. They also sell the Chautauqua literary journal, the Chautauqua Prize-winning book, and each of the season’s CLSC books.
Snyder and her staff also serve as an ambassadorial branch of the CLSC — they’re there to explain what the CLSC is and why it matters.
There’s also another responsibility they have, one that Snyder is more than enthusiastic about.
“My job is to read the books, too,” Snyder said. “I give my opinion on the books according to how I feel about them.”
Snyder recalled a time where one of her recommendations — or rather, her lack of a recommendation — turned out to be true.
“I won’t say the book, but I had some friends who came in that were going to buy this book,” Snyder said. “And I said that I didn’t really care for it, but they decided they were going to buy it anyway. And I said, ‘That’s fine.’ So they bought it. And then a week later, I was sitting on my front porch, and they both ride by on their bikes and say, ‘We should’ve listened to you.’ And they just kept riding.”
Snyder said that’s what she’ll miss most about her job: getting to talk to people about the books. She’s already reached the Centurion level with the CLSC(which means she’s read 110 books from the historic list, but she has no plans to stop reading the CLSC books.
“I don’t have to report any more books, but I will keep reporting them — you never know when they’ll come out with another level,” Snyder said with a laugh.
Besides getting to know the readers of Chautauqua, she’s also gotten to know the other members of the literary arts staff well.
CLSC Activities Coordinator Jeff Miller has worked with her since she became the manager of the Veranda. He said Snyder is the type of person “who has everything lined up a day before, a week before, everybody else.”
“The other thing that I will miss — both personally and professionally — is that we really do have each other’s back,” Miller said. “What I do as the activities coordinator of the CLSC and what she does as the Veranda manager have a lot of things in concert — knowing the books will be ready, that the authors will be served, and that the programs are going to roll forward. And Peg is a constant checkpoint for me.”
It’s hard to picture the Veranda without Snyder, Miller said.
“I can’t think of life without Peg,” he said.
Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said Snyder has been a constant in her life since she first started working at Chautauqua Institution and with the CLSC.
“She is the Veranda,” Babcock said.
The Veranda has come to represent many things — knowledge about the books, keeping track of CLSC records, awarding medals to the young readers. It’s also a place to talk about the books, Babcock said. Snyder is a central part of all of that.
Each Veranda manager brings a new perspective to the CLSC, and Babcock has seen that in the work that she and Snyder have done together.
Mary Pat McFarland, who has worked at the Veranda with Snyder for about six years, echoed the sentiment.
“I think it’s a place that, just like books, can have a wide range of interpretations,” McFarland said.
What McFarland will miss most is having a co-worker who’s been a true friend to her as well, she said.
“She just makes it a great place to work,” McFarland said.
Besides her regular duties at the Veranda — organizing membership records, coordinating diplomas for CLSC Recognition Day, soothing the concerns of CLSC members — Snyder has had an additional task this summer: training her replacement, Judi Mohn Griggs. Griggs will take over as manager of the Veranda next summer.
Griggs said she learns something new from Snyder every day, but what she’s come to realize — and what Snyder has shown her — is that being the manager of the Veranda is more than just being an administrator.
“Every day, you realize how much more CLSC is than just books and record keeping,” Griggs said. “And she is the heart and soul of that.”
Griggs said she sometimes feels a little nervous about replacing Snyder, because she’s “replacing a legend.” She said Snyder’s compassion and generosity in what she does as the manager of the Veranda impresses her.
Griggs said this is best exemplified by the chocolate jar Snyder keeps at the Veranda for the customers — one she keeps full out of her own pocket. Customers will come in to have a piece of chocolate, chat with Snyder and make other CLSC inquiries. She said she’ll keep the tradition of the chocolate jar alive after Snyder leaves.
While Griggs might be intimidated to replace Snyder, Snyder has no doubts about the job that she’ll do. Despite only working with her for about a month and a half, Snyder said she knows Griggs is the right choice and is more than ready for the job.
“Oh, she’ll be great,” she said. ”She has a great rapport with anybody who walks through the door, and that’s very important.”
Griggs said while Snyder is leaving the Veranda behind, “the heart and the history” she brought to her job makes her legendary in the Veranda’s continuing story.
“In sports, you’d say a legend is someone who did something exceptionally well,” Griggs said. “Sometimes it’s that they’ve done it for a long, long time. Or they’ve made their mark in some way. Peg’s done all three of those things. So by any definition, she is a legend.”