Margaret Saylor began her career at Blue Mountain Community College in 1975 armed with a briefcase and a business phone line in her home.

Almost four decades later, she will retire from her private office at the Eastern Oregon Higher Education Center, the Hermiston college facility she helped make a reality.

“When I first started, I worked with a private phone line in my house. The kids remember being on notice not to pick up the black phone. They knew it was a business phone and only Mom was allowed to answer it,” Saylor said. “When I first started, I didn’t even have a computer, then when I got a computer, the software we had wouldn’t underline text. Times have changed.”

Saylor grew up in Portland and moved to Hermiston in the 1960s, when the agricultural community didn’t even have sidewalks.

“I thought, ‘All right, we can try it for a year.’ After a year, I was willing to stay because I made a shocking discovery: What really makes a place is the people, and this area has some really great people,” she said. “I never would have guessed, growing up in Portland, that I’d spend my adult life in a small city in Eastern Oregon, but it’s been wonderful.”

In the 1980s, Saylor helped found the Desert Arts Council to bring cultural performances to Eastern Oregon. The board now meets monthly in the Margaret Saylor Boardroom at EOHEC.

In the late 1990s, she also served on the HUES — Hermiston Umatilla Echo Stanfield — project to help direct the area’s response to commercial growth in the area, such as the Walmart Distribution Center, Union Pacific Railroad’s Hinkle Locomotive facility and Two Rivers Correctional Institution.

“Hermiston was small enough at that point we could wrap our arms around it, put our heads together and do a needs assessment,” she said.

Over her years with BMCC, Saylor followed the Hermiston branch from her home to a leased office, shared with a representative from Eastern Oregon University, to the move to Columbia Hall in the mid-1990s. But through the years, the college continued to grow, and Saylor was at the forefront of increasing offerings and space for instruction. She oversaw renovations and expansion of the old Hermiston facility and was instrumental in the creation of EOHEC. Classes began in the higher ed complex last September.

Saylor remembers a time before the college satellite offices shared a phone system with the main campus — leaving some employees isolated — and she is now oversees BMCC branch offices in Milton-Freewater, Baker and Boardman, in addition to Hermiston.

“It’s interesting because I’ve been where they all are. I understand the needs at each (location),” she said. “When we first started in Hermiston, we were the same size as Boardman is now.”

But with all the changes she’s seen, Saylor said the college is now in a position where someone new can step in and continue the momentum.

“I just decided it was time,” she said. “I love working, but it was time to retire. I’ve got a long list of things to do.”

On Saylor’s to-do list is visiting her daughter in London, a mediterranean cruise and spending more time with her grandchildren and returning to sewing and quilting.

“I also have a whole list of longtime friends that I just haven’t seen in a long time that I want to catch up with,” she said. “I started realizing the only way I’d have time to do all these things is to retire.”

Saylor will leave office this summer, but said she will remain active in Hermiston. She said she plans to continue her extensive community involvement, which includes the Desert Arts Council, Good Shepherd Foundation, Futures Task Force, the Hermiston Planning Commission and Altrusa International of Hermiston.

She said she also plans to sign up for a yoga class at the college.

“I don’t think I’m going to be bored,” she said with a laugh. “I have plenty to do.”

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