City man teaches, learns, during 7 years in Russia

January 31, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Former Highland View Academy principal Harry Mayden's home is full of mementos of his seven-year stay in Russia.

Handcrafted rugs, nesting dolls, musical instruments, vases and figurines remind him of his life in Russia and the friends he made during the years he and his wife, Joyce, lived there.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church sent Mayden to Russia in 1992 to lend his expertise in administration to several schools forming there and to a theological seminary in Moscow.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has about 135,000 members in Russia, he said.

The couple returned to Hagerstown in August and Mayden accepted a post as chairman of the education department at Columbia Union College in Tacoma Park, Md.


A native of Saskatchewan, Canada, Mayden, 67, was raised on a farm and came to the United States in 1952 to attend Madison College in Madison, Tenn., where he received a degree in biology.

Mayden also holds a master's degree in biology from George Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and a doctorate in administration and supervision from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla.

He taught in Seventh-day Adventist schools in Florida and was superintendent of education at a Virginia school before being transferred to Washington County in 1987.

Mayden was principal of Highland Academy - a day and boarding school for students in grades nine to 12 near Cavetown - until 1992 when he was transferred to Russia.

Although Mayden's parents were from the Ukraine, he had never before visited Eastern Europe, he said.

In Russia, it was Mayden's job to instruct the school's officials on effective management policies and financial systems.

"I had to start from scratch," he said.

Under the previous political regime, residents "had been given everything to live," and had no concept of how to run a school, he said.

During a 14-month stint as acting president of the Zaoksky Theological Seminary he instituted a secretarial program and solicited funds for the schools.

While Mayden helped with the administration of the schools and seminary, his wife worked as an accountant at the Adventist's Health Center in Moscow.

The couple picked up enough of the language to get by but relied on an interpreter at times, he said.

It was easy for the Russians to identify them as Americans, even when they hadn't said a word, said Joyce Mayden.

"They said it was the look in our eyes and the way we walked, the confidence we had," she said.

Conversely, in many of the Russians, "there was a look of despair," after having lived under an oppressive government, she said.

Many Russians were curious about their American lifestyles and had some misconceptions, said Harry Mayden.

"They thought all Americans were dripping with money," he said.

The Russians also had different ideas about the role of teachers in the classroom and Mayden objected to their occasional "authoritative attitudes, " he said.

Mayden said he tried to show the benefits of a more compassionate attitude toward the students, which the educators slowly embraced.

During their stay, the couple lived in a two bedroom $700-a-month apartment and managed without a car. In the early years, they did not have a washer or dryer.

Mayden said food prices were reasonable but ingredients were sometimes hard to come by.

"If you passed by a kiosk and saw a piece of cheese you bought it, because it might not be there later," said Joyce Mayden.

"We lost 17 pounds the first year," Harry Mayden said.

For leisure the couple would go to a nearby 20-acre flea market to shop and people-watch, said Joyce Mayden.

There also were trips to the circus, the Bolshoi Theater and concerts at the Kremlin, she said.

The temperature averaged just above 20 degrees in the winter and Moscow normally received a couple of feet of snow, she said.

During the summers, temperatures climbed to about 80 degrees and daylight lasted a long time.

"The sun would come up at 4 a.m. and not go down until 10 p.m." she said.

The Maydens said they enjoyed the legendary "white nights" - a month-long period during which the sun doesn't appear to set.

They stayed in contact with family by using e-mail and a fax machine and kept up on events back home by watching CNN and the BBC.

During their stay, the Maydens frequently made brief business trips back to the United States. They took back to Russia with them some hard-to-get items such as mayonnaise, peanut butter and toilet paper.

They intend to return to Russia in May for the seminary's graduation, for which Harry Mayden will be the keynote speaker.

Although their lives weren't as comfortable as in Washington County, Joyce Mayden said she was enriched by the trip.

"I came back feeling good," she said. "I learned a lot about the people (of Russia) and myself."

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