Her dad wanted her to go to college to learn about computers. But as a high schooler in Buffalo, New York, in the 1970s, Pat Krider wasn’t interested in computers. To her, the only people who studied computers were geeky guys with pocket protectors and horn-rimmed glasses.
Turns out, dad might have been right after all. It was a job teaching computers that opened the door for Krider to become the first—and only—executive director of the National First Ladies’ Library in Canton, where she has rubbed elbows with some of the nation’s most prominent ladies during her 19-year career.
Krider came to Stark County in 1979 looking for better career opportunities than found in her hometown where entire steel factories were closing.
She already earned an associate degree to be a legal secretary in Buffalo, but realized that she seemed to have a knack for computers. She decided to enroll in computer programming courses at Stark State College.
In 1984, Stark State hired Krider on staff. She was working as a full-time instructor in Stark State’s Computer Applications Department when she first met Mary Regula, the wife of longtime U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, who at the time was commissioning a 40,000-entry bibliography on all the wives of U.S. presidents that would become the cornerstone of the National First Ladies’ Library.
“She was going to publish it in book form,” Krider said, “but people were saying, ‘It’s 1995, you should put it online so everybody could have it.’ ”
Regula contacted Stark State’s president to see if the college had anyone who would volunteer a “few hours” of their time to create the online bibliography of America’s first ladies.
Krider agreed to lend her expertise and worked to develop the website on and off for more than three years.
“My first moment of true pride was in February of 1998,” Krider recalled. “We were invited to the White House by (then First Lady) Hillary Clinton. She unveiled the website in the East Room of the White House. That was a cool moment watching the first lady access her own bibliography in the White House.”
As the National First Ladies’ Library became more established and moved into the Saxton McKinley House, Krider’s involvement grew. Regula hired Krider in January 1999 as the library’s director of computer services. A year later, Krider became the library’s first executive director.
“Mary started talking about needing an executive director and I went to her,” Krider recalled. “I told her that I had a teaching background and an MBA. I said I’ve been here since the start. I said, ‘Give me a chance.’ ”
Krider has overseen the growth of the organization as a National Historic Site under the National Park Service. She
recalls how she, Regula and Sheila Fisher would be on the construction site nearly every day during the renovation of the 1895 City National Bank Building into the new education and research center. It opened in September 2003.
“It’s something you’re awestruck by, but you are very proud that you had a hand in making it happen,” she said.
Krider, who oversees a staff of three full-time and seven part-time employees, handles the organization’s accounting, human resources, marketing efforts, exhibit planning and educational programs. She also serves as the liaison to the National Park Service.
“When you come on board, you kind of live first ladies every day here,” Krider said, “because there’s always something new to learn.”
An avid traveler, Krider, who married Scott Heller last July, offered some of her Stark County favorites:
Restaurant: Lucia’s Italian Steakhouse—the food and customer service are outstanding.
Thing to do: Spend time with my husband—wherever we go or whatever we do is fine with me.
Most memorable spot: My husband and I had our first dinner date at Desert Inn, so it will always be memorable to me.
Date night: Dinner and cocktails at one of Stark County’s locally owned restaurants—Lucia’s, Sylvester’s, Canal Grille, Main Street Grille, 91.
Lunch spot: I don’t really have a favorite, but there are a number that I enjoy: Canal Grille, Sylvester’s, Burntwood Tavern and Bender’s.
Spot to grab a drink: Sylvester’s patio during the warm weather. Other months, I like Lucia’s, Basil and 91.
Spot to exercise: I don’t do it enough, but I like to walk the track at Jackson North Park.
Local event: Vintage Canton and the Blues Fest.
Volunteer opportunity: National First Ladies’ Library/First Ladies National Historic Site, of course! You get to meet interesting people from all over the country (and sometimes all over the world), and you get to work in a beautiful environment and share interesting stories about our first ladies.