Rachel Maus is a professional. Recently named finance director for The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, she has an MBA and 20 years experience in academic accounting. She has owned a gifts and antiques business and worked as a professional silversmith.
In her spare time, she’s approaching “professional” status in yet another field – reading. Maus chairs UCI’s Academic and Professional Women’s Anteater Readers and keeps up with several more book discussion groups. She trades book tips with readers around the country whose standard greeting is not “How are you?” but “What are you reading?”
She reads two or more books a week, from philosophical works for her “great books” group to best-selling novels on Oprah’s book list. Her taste is wide-ranging and eclectic, though she admits, “I hate philosophy books. I look for something that makes me think, but to find the rare book that stays with you –Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell come to mind – you have to read a lot.
“Many people think reading is a luxury, or frivolous. I view it as an important part of life.”
It is not, however, the only thing in Maus’ life.
“Rachel has an incredible amount of energy,” says her colleague Marilyn Armentrout, engineering school personnel coordinator. “She’s an accomplished quilter whose work is shown nationally and she’s past president of the American Association of University Women in Mission Viejo.”
Maus has stitched more than 100 quilts, and each year the handmade quilt she contributes to the AAUW Education Foundation fund raises $1,000 or more for fellowships for women in nontraditional fields. She also has chaired Managers of Academic Business Offices at UCI, puts in several hours per month as alumni advisor for Delta Delta Delta sorority and never misses a drama performance at UCI.
The secret to getting it all done, she says, is working efficiently. That, and the ability to function on very little sleep. “Sometimes, if I’m really involved with a project, I’ll work at it all night,” she says.
A native Californian, Maus moved east after college, married and settled in upstate New York. The family (the Mauses have a daughter and son) then moved to Rochester, Minn., where Maus opened her gifts and antiques shop, which grew to include quilting supplies and the silver jewelry she created.
“My husband kept moving me where the weather was cold,” she says with a small grimace. “When we both sold our businesses (her stockbroker husband owned a hotel), we considered relocating. We thought, ‘Why work all your life to go someplace nice to retire? Why not go someplace nice now?’
“We spent a year traveling around the country. We visited Florida, Colorado, Arizona, San Francisco. Then we ran into an old acquaintance from Mission Viejo whose company wanted to transfer him. He quit his job rather than leave Orange County. I thought a place that could make you quit your job must be pretty special.”
So Maus and her husband moved to Mission Viejo. She went to work as a financial analyst at the Art Institute of Southern California before coming to UCI 13 years ago. The job turned out to be a good move, too. “Engineers understand money and finance. And efficiency,” she says.
Evidently Maus brings the same efficiency to her reading as she does to managing the engineering school’s money: As she starts the new McCullough biography of John Adams for the Anteater Readers as well as her AAUW chapter, she notes, “There are certain books that people are reading in all book groups.”