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Staff Spotlight: Architecture staff member builds collection of amber

Life has a funny way of showing us what's important. Take Maureen Perdomo, for example. The manager of marketing and promotion for the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP) got her wake-up call five years ago when her husband, Raul, almost died of a dissecting aortic aneurysm. He recovered, but the event led Perdomo to realize that you have to make time for what you truly love to do. In Perdomo's case, that was riding horses, collecting amber and spending more time with her family.
(Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

Riding is a great stress release, Perdomo says. As a child, she rode horses, but just recently realized a life-long dream of owning her own. Perdomo and her husband have three Paso Fino horses, which they board on their property and use for trail riding. Perdomo likes Paso Finos (which means "fine step" in Spanish) because they are known for their smooth gait, a trait they pass down through generations.

Nine years ago, Perdomo began collecting ambertree sap from ancient pine forests that is millions of years old and has been fossilized. "I cannot really explain it; I am just drawn to amber," Perdomo says. She started her collection by purchasing jewelry at the annual amber show by Betty Price, a world-traveling jewelry collector, at the John Leidy Shop in Ann Arbor.

Price became Perdomo's mentor, and the two traveled together to the international amber show in Gdansk, Poland. "I found interesting samples with inclusions of insects, plant fragments and water bubbles on that trip, which inspired me to create a hands-on education program for children about amber's rich history," Perdomo says. In addition to its beauty as a gemstone, paleontologists value amber as a window to the past, she says. "It is often mentioned in mythology and was even the premise of the movie 'Jurassic Park,'" she says.

Not only does Perdomo collect amber, she also designs with it. "Right now, I'm working on decorating stuffed dolls and horses I sew for my daughter with amber beads," Perdomo says. Eventually, she says, she would like to import and sell amber, but she is in no rush to do so. "My mentor is an inspiration at 89 years old, so there is lots of time for me to do this," Perdomo says.

Perdomo, who earned a B.F.A. at U-M, joined the staff in 1992 after 15 years in marketing and graphics for architecture, construction and high-tech firms. Her first job at the University was to help promote the change from campus mainframe computing on MTS to the networked PC environment of today. In 1998, she joined TCAUP to work with Dean Doug Kelbaugh, a national expert on New Urbanism whom she greatly admires. Perdomo edits the college's alumni magazine, publishes an online newsletter, and coordinates admissions materials, event promotion, media relations and other special projects for the dean.

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