Professor Mark McKinely “came with the college’s bricks”
Walking into Professor Mark McKinley’s office is a bit like walking into a time capsule. If it were preserved as is, future generations would find not one but three linked computer screens covered with icons; shelves upon shelves of books; a life-sized mannequin, named Julie, attired in a simple black dress and a string of pearls; and a series of talking clocks. Call out “Hello Ivee” and a female voice fills the room, asking if you’d like the time or weather.
As a self-described horologist, McKinley began collecting talking clocks somewhat by accident. In 1990, he bought his first talking clock - a simple box with a button - for his sight-impaired mother. What began as casually acquiring talking clocks at garage sales developed into a worldwide quest, following the advent of eBay. In 2010, his collection of talking clocks earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. By that time, he owned 782 clocks.
The majority of the collection, which represents almost every genre ever made, is housed at his home. McKinley hopes to create a brick and mortar museum in Amherst, estimating he would need 1600 square feet to accommodate his burgeoning collection, which now stands at 954 clocks.
For now, he operates a virtual talking clock museum online. A visit to the International Society of Talking Clock Collectors’ website (www.talkingclocks.net) offers a visual and auditory journey into the world of time.
To keep the home he shares with his wife, Susan, from becoming a cacophony of chimes and chatter, only a few of the clocks are set to the correct time, allowing them to chime and talk throughout the day. "It's like living next to railroad tracks – you get used to them,” said McKinley.
One of his favorite clocks, Mr. Aristocrat, the Heinz Tomato Man clock, has appropriately found its home in the McKinley’s kitchen. "It's time to get up; get up right away! Wait any longer and it's 'ketchup' all day!” mimics McKinley.
With the need to buy batteries in bulk, McKinley’s collection could be viewed as the Holy Grail of the Energizer Bunny. And then there’s the time, the time it takes to adjust all those clocks each spring and fall.
As a professor of psychology at Lorain County Community College since 1966, McKinley has penned six books and dozens of articles including a more recent piece entitled, The Psychology of Collecting. It opens with just three words – Everybody collects something.
The question for psychologists is what motivates us to collect things. McKinley points beyond the pure enjoyment or investment value. “For some people, collecting is simply the quest, in some cases a life-long pursuit that is never complete,” said McKinley. He also addresses what he calls the dark side of collecting – hoarding – and is quick to point out that he is nowhere near that level of compulsive collecting. "It’s not hoarding if you have organization, history and knowledge tied to the items."
Opting to share that knowledge and history, in part via social media, McKinley has created and posted 167 clock videos on YouTube.
With over a million hits, you might say he now collects viewers as well.
From the one room schoolhouse in Traverse City, Michigan that he attended as an 11-year-old, to Northwestern Michigan College, the local community college where McKinley discovered his passion for academics, education has always been at the forefront of his life.
With a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University, he secured his first teaching position in 1963, at Port Huron Community College. Three years later, as a proponent in the nascent community college movement, he accepted a position the newly founded Lorain County Community College and never looked back.
As the learning environment has changed as much as the student body, McKinley believes in moving with the times. In 1998, he developed LCCC’s first online course, Introduction to Psychology. “With the Internet, I’ve had students from the California, United Kingdom, Trinidad, France, Australia and Japan,” said McKinley.
Known as the Forever Professor, McKinley quips that he came with the college’s bricks. While he officially retired in 2012, after he “ran out of words,” as a professor emeritus, he shows little sign of slowing down – or ever truly being at a loss for words. Currently, he’s working on two new books: Damn It, It's About Time; The Fourth Dimension and The Psychology of Collecting: Everybody Collects Something.
As a lasting commitment to his love of learning, he recently established The McKinley Psychology Scholarship, in partnership with the LCCC Foundation. “It’s my way of saying thank you for the memories,” said McKinley.
His philosophy of life has been inspired by time and knowledge. “Time is the currency of life, spend it wisely. It isn’t about counting the days, but making your days count,” said McKinley. As LCCC enters its 50th year, McKinley’s message to students remains the same - “If you’re lucky enough to go to college, you’re lucky enough.”