The joy of volunteering and sharing the history of Mayo Clinic

Sep 16, 2019 | willmccully | @willmccully


Photo of John and Mary Wiater

“You meet people you’ll always remember”

The Mayo Clinic campuses have captivating architecture, as well as important artifacts that have been preserved and donated to Mayo. These artifacts are not locked away. As a matter of fact, these pieces of history are on display for patients and those visiting the clinic to enjoy. Two historical areas are located on the Rochester campus: the Historical Suite in the Plummer Building and Heritage Hall in the Mayo Building. These areas are home to priceless artifacts that cannot be seen anywhere else, only here at Mayo Clinic.

The Historical Suite is located on the third floor of the Plummer Building. When entering the suite, you seem to travel back in time just by walking through the halls. Seeing surgical scrubs and tools used by the Mayo brothers, you are put back to the early days of medicine. The offices of Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Mayo are located in this area. The suite also includes the room where the Board of Governors met to make crucial decisions regarding Mayo Clinic’s future, and awards the Mayo brothers received are displayed around the room. The Historical Suite is also home to the 1950 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine that was awarded to two Mayo Clinic staff members. Renee Ziemer, the Historical Suite coordinator, says her favorite part of working in there is “interacting with the patients, sharing Mayo’s history and listening to their stories, as well as learning the impact Mayo has had on their lives.”

Heritage Hall is located in Mathews Grand Lobby, street level of the Mayo Building, overlooking Mathews Heritage Dome. Heritage Hall is a museum as well as a welcome center for patients. This area conveys patient stories through relics that were gifted to Mayo Clinic. These historical objects and artifacts include an Olympic Gold Medal, as well as displays of Mayo Clinic’s early years. These pieces provide understanding and insight to Mayo Clinic’s beginning and values we abide by today.

Viewing these priceless artifacts and seeing such unique history is free of charge. Both historical areas are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mayo Clinic volunteers greet people who enter both spaces. These kind and caring individuals are some of the 1,500 volunteers who change lives and brighten Mayo patients’ days. John and Mary Wiater have been volunteering for over seven years and serve on the leadership team. John volunteers in the Historical Suite and Desk C in the Hilton Building. Mary serves at Heritage Hall and Desk C. They consider volunteering to be a learning experience that enriches one’s life. As John describes, “It is important to be with patients and help alleviate their stress and worry.” Mary says, “You meet people you will always remember.”

Many volunteers report this is a common occurrence, especially when they meet visitors and hear patient stories. If you are not currently a volunteer and would like to join our team, contact the volunteer office at 507-255-9912 or

Will McCully, a student at the University of St. Thomas, wrote this article as a summer intern in the Mayo Clinic Department of Development


Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Volunteer Programs blog.

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