Liz Buckley has helped shape Rouse vision in a 26-year career


January 18, 2000|By John J. Snyder | John J. Snyder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LIZ BUCKLEY can look back at 26 years of Columbia history with a smile. She recently retired from her job as marketing manager at Columbia Management Inc., the company that oversees the Rouse Co.'s shopping centers in Columbia.

Buckley, 60, has made remarkable contributions to the growth and development of our city. In her honor, a privately funded endowment has been established at the Columbia Foundation to benefit worthy charities.

She arrived in Maryland in 1972 from Trenton, N.J., when husband Tom Buckley, an insurance adjuster, was transferred to Greenbelt. The family settled into a townhouse in College Park.

Tom, a Vietnam veteran, went to school at the University of Maryland on the G.I. Bill. To make ends meet, Liz went to work as a secretary in the university's engineering department.

Tom, Liz and their children, Kathleen, Betsy and Jim, liked to take Sunday drives into the countryside, and they came to visit the new town of Columbia out of curiosity.

Back then, the bold ideas of Columbia's founder, James W. Rouse, were still dreams -- the new town consisted mostly of muddy lots and unfinished streets, Liz says.

"The only place to buy lunch for the three kids was the counter of the Wilde Lake Pharmacy," she said.

The Buckleys were impressed by Howard County schools and Columbia's pioneer spirit. But College Park was a bustling community. The family's desire for social interaction overruled the temptation to move. That is, until a candle left burning in a neighboring townhouse burned eight of the 17 homes in their development -- including their own.

"The next day, Tom saw an ad in the paper that said there were townhouses in Columbia we could rent with an option to buy while we were waiting for mortgage approval," Liz said. "I thought I would be out in the sticks. I would be away from my friends and all the stores and all the things to do."

Two months after the fire, the Buckleys turned the key on a new townhouse in Prospect Walk (now Heritage Walk) on Tamar Drive in the Long Reach village.

There were 300 families living in the village.

"There was no Long Reach Village Center, no Route 175," Liz said. "It was all pastures. But it was small enough and intimate enough for Columbia Manager Dick Anderson to have everybody over for a Christmas party at his farmhouse."

Through a friend, Liz found a job with the Rouse Co. With a background in journalism, she was able to join the company's communications department as a staff writer. Tom Buckley continued working and studying.

The Rouse Co. recognized Liz Buckley's talent for marketing. She quickly rose through the company ranks.

A quarter-century later, she can tell you the date -- and sometimes the weather -- of every important moment in the growth of the community.

She remembers that 28 inches of snow fell on the day that Dobbin Center opened in February 1983.

In 1989, on her 30th wedding anniversary, Liz oversaw the opening of the new Dorsey's Search Village Center.

Best of all, she remembers working with merchants to benefit the communities that supported their businesses.

Liz is a charter member of the Howard County schools' Superintendent's Advisory Council for Business Educational Partnerships, and she served on the boards of numerous local charities.

In 1994, she founded Rave Reviews, Howard County General Hospital's thrift shop. The consignment boutique offers clothing at bargain prices.

The shop, in Hickory Ridge Village Center on Freetown Road, is similar to one that Liz Buckley's mother, Elizabeth Peplow, started in Mercer County, N.J., years ago.

Rave Reviews was a risk for the Rouse Co., which donated valuable space in the thriving village center.

But with faith, and a little prodding by Liz, the project took off. After two years of operation, Rave Reviews broke even. Now the store pays full rent, and has shown an accumulated profit over the years of more than $100,000.

Proceeds go to the hospital's children's services.

Project Promise was another idea that Liz helped develop.

When Hickory Ridge resident Toba Barth was looking for a location to sell prom dresses on consignment, Liz found an empty store in Kings Contrivance Village Center.

During prom season, Project Promise offers prom dresses at about half their original cost. The dresses usually have been worn only once. Half of the proceeds go to the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center for homeless families.

Barth's plan called for a one-day, one-time sale at Atholton High School. With help from Liz, the idea blossomed into an annual event that moves to whichever village center has an unleased storefront.

Tom Buckley now works for the U.S. Department of Labor as director of investigations for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Buckley children have families of their own.

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