Mary MacKinnon was a relatively young woman when she got involved in the study of aging.
Her mother had taken ill and, as the primary care giver, MacKinnon began looking for services and resources. There were some things, but not as many as she thought there should be, said her daughter, Virginia MacKinnon.
“She was trained as a nurse, but that didn’t prepare her for this part of caring for my grandmother,” MacKinnon said, of her mother. “So she began to study gerontology.”
She went to Georgia State University and earned, what was then, a certificate in gerontology. There is now a master’s degree offered in the study, thanks in part to MacKinnon’s efforts, colleagues and former students said.
Through that program, MacKinnon started a second career and served as the director of student affairs for the GSU Gerontology Institute for more than two decades, before retiring in 2009. In that role she was able to encourage students in their studies, and remind them of the importance of what they were learning.
“She let us know we could make a difference,” said former student Ginny Helms, now vice president of the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia chapter. “Mary was the ideal person to serve in this capacity because she had a keen understanding of the needs of older adults and knew that it was vitally important to prepare professionals to serve them.”
Mary Mitchum MacKinnon, of Atlanta, died Jan. 15 at her daughter’s home in Fort Collins, Colo. from complications of cancer. She was 74. Her body was cremated by Allnutt Funeral Services, Fort Collins, Colo., and a memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Feb. 16, at the Atlanta Friends Meetinghouse, Decatur.
Born in Kingstree, S.C., MacKinnon attended Winthrop College, now University, before transferring to the University of South Carolina in pursuit of a nursing degree. She graduated in the early ‘60s and moved to Atlanta, where she worked at the former Saint Joseph’s Infirmary. Through her job at the infirmary, she was able to earn a master’s degree in nursing from Emory, which she finished in the mid-‘60s, her daughter said. She’d married in 1962 and by 1967, the first of her three children was born, and she left nursing to become a full-time mother. She went back into the workforce after she earned her gerontology certification.
In a tribute on the Facebook page of the Gerontology Institute at Georgia State University, MacKinnon was remembered as “a tireless advocate for our students and a passionate member of the GSU Gerontology family.” Former students also took the time to share memories of MacKinnon’s helpful and encouraging ways.
“I’ve gotten so many notes from former students,” Virginia MacKinnon said. “So many of them say that she came to this, or was the only person to come to that. One student said she came to their dissertation defense, and that she was the only person there. You know, I think mom figured out that one of the most important things in life is to be there for people, and that’s what she did. She would just show up.”
In addition to her daughter, MacKinnon is survived by her daughter, Katherine MacKinnon of Chico, Calif.,; son, Luther MacKinnon, IV of Fort Collins, Colo.; sister, Sara Karrer of Charleston, S.C.; and five grandchildren.
Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, recently likened people with pre-existing medical conditions to wrecked cars and appeared to suggest that the sick are at fault for their illnesses just as drivers are at fault for their accidents.
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