Senior Project Specialist, Field Projects
Born in San Diego, the third of 11 children, Mary spent her early years in Hawaii before her family returned stateside and settled in a Los Angeles suburb. As a child she enjoyed literature, art, math, and, later, Spanish. After high school—where she contemplated political cartooning as a career—she entered U.C. Berkeley, the school she had wanted to attend ever since first seeing it at the age of 10. After her freshman year, she lived and worked in France and Spain for a year before returning to Berkeley, where she majored in French.
The year in Europe—and subsequent summers in France—sparked an interest in art history and architecture, and several years after graduating she went back to Berkeley to get a master's degree in architecture. She followed this with a postgraduate program in Siena, Italy, on architecture and urban design for historic cities. Shortly thereafter, she married Michael Corbett, an architectural historian. She took a year off after the birth of her daughter Anna, then worked for several firms, consulting on historic architecture. In 1988 the family moved from Berkeley to New York, where Mary earned a master's degree in historic preservation from Columbia University. In 1990, before returning west, she went to Rome to do architectural conservation at the archaeological site of Trajan's Market.
Hired by the Architectural Resources Group in San Francisco, Mary spent the next five years primarily surveying and assessing historic structures at the Presidio. In addition, she was project conservator for several buildings at Stanford University. In 1992 her role as "mom" expanded with the birth of her son John.
In 1995 Mary joined Siegel & Strain Architects, where she served as the firm's conservation consultant, assessing preservation needs of structures slated for renovation. These ranged from historic farm structures to U.C. Berkeley buildings, including Memorial Stadium. In addition, she worked as a freelance conservator on historic places such as Mesa Verde in Colorado.
Desiring more international work, she joined the GCI in 2001 as a senior project specialist. Early on, she managed the GCI's El Salvador Earthquake Relief Project, assisting authorities in training and planning to stabilize and repair damaged monuments—work she found particularly gratifying. Now the GCI's project manager for Project Terra, Mary is working on the development of a field project component for this collaborative project focused on earthen architecture conservation.