Emory Report
February 9, 2009
Volume 61, Number 19



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February 9
, 2009
Oiling the wheels of life

By Leslie King

Amy Wheeler wants to make a difference to somebody. Or rather she wants to keep doing that.
In the north Georgia town of Sugar Hill, Wheeler worked for seven years in a nursing home. “I still see people from the nursing home job I had years and years ago who say, ‘I remember what you did for my mom,’” she says. “That really makes me feel good. I did make a difference and I want to make a difference now.”

The associate editor and director’s associate at Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion and her family won the Volunteer Group of the Year Award from the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for the Aging for their work at Wesley Woods Towers, Emory Healthcare’s geriatric residence located on the campus.

Wheeler and her three daughters became familiar faces at Wesley Woods when middle child, Abigail, played her harp there for a recital, and oldest sister, Grace, handed out programs.

Since then, Wheeler and her daughters visit several times a month. “The community adores them,” Wheeler said. They usually volunteer as a family on the second floor, the personal care area.

Often, they get some interesting “feedback.” Wheeler once overheard two residents talking, unaware that she was nearby, saying “I think that mother left these kids for us to babysit again,” she recalls, laughing.

Wheeler takes her own time there, too. “For the calendar year 2008, I went every Wednesday for the day to the horticultural therapy program,” she says, describing it as “spiritually healing.”

Wheeler decided she wanted to move to Atlanta after growing up in a small place. She applied for a job at Emory. “My brother had graduated from Emory so I knew its reputation,” she says.

The employment office was still in Trimble Hall and her first job was working for then-dean of the law school, Woody Hunter.

In her current job, Wheeler has two titles and multiple roles. “I don’t even know what all that means,” she says of the titles on her business card but laughs, “I’m really loyal and pretty efficient.”

Wheeler is the administrator for prolific scholar, writer and lecturer John Witte, CSLR director. “He’s writing multiple books at a time; he’s traveling all over the world. Basically I manage his time. And make sure he can take care of every commitment promised,” she explains, adding: “I’m his go-to person.”

Like a plant manager?

“I don’t have as many keys as a plant manager,” she laughs. She describes her contribution to her job as “kind of just oiling the wheels rather than turning them.”

Another role is to manage the CSLR’s book series, as liaison between authors and the publishing house. This led to her becoming an editor of a book: “The Equal-Regard Family and Its Friendly Critics: Don Browning and the Practical Theological Ethics of the Family.” “It’s nice to have your name on the spine of a book,” she notes.

Wheeler has high praise for Emory as a great place to work: “I’m proud to say I work here, proud to say I’m a part of it.”

“I like being a part of the huge community and I’ve tried to be involved on campus, not just in the law school. I’ve tried to have my hands in other things.” She mentions being a member of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and different library groups, adding, ”I would like to do more.”

“I would love to get a master’s degree in public health because I love feeling like whatever I do is helping someone and making a difference in someone’s life,” she says.

What else would she like to do? She and her girls are musical. Wheeler plays the piano; Grace, 12, the guitar; Abigail, 10, the harp, and Clare, 7, got a ukelele for Christmas.

“I wanted to direct an orchestra. I think that’s so cool,” she says. Her multi-faceted life, job and avocation make it seem like she does that. “You think? Orchestrating? See, I am a conductor. I never thought about it like that.”