A Mirthful Spirit


Embracing Laughter For Wellness

About Mary Huntley

Several events seemed to weave humor and laughter into the fabric of Mary’s life: Writing a booklet of riddles and jokes while in sixth grade; admiring her father share his mirthfulness, great story telling, and wonderful laughs; experiencing lightheartedness growing up in a family that had its own set of “hard knocks;” living a life filled with uplifting music; choosing a life partner who loves to laugh; and enjoying a family that laughs with each other.   

Mary’s professional academic degrees all related to nursing: Bachelor of Science degree from Mankato State College, Mankato, Minnesota; Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas.  Nursing practice in Mankato, Duluth, MN, and Iowa City paved the way for an academic career of more than 30 years as a professor, continuing education director, and interim dean/associate dean in the School of Nursing at Minnesota State University (MSU), Mankato until her retirement in 2001. 

A new chapter in the journey of laughter occurred for Mary when her daughter chose laughter as the topic for a 1984 high school English paper titled, “Laughter’s Positive Force in Life.”  After reading her paper and its supporting resources the notion that laughter could intentionally influence wellness for people was exciting and decidedly intriguing for more formal study.  Thus, Mary’s dissertation research topic blossomed when she returned to graduate school in 1985.

In 1989 Mary developed an elective course for nursing students on “Laughter and Wellness in Nursing Practice.” The seminar designed course later became an online offering. Learning together with students for 12 years gave Mary an even stronger desire to share knowledge, wisdom, and hope for using laughter to help people access their mirthful spirits and embrace laughter for wellness. 

In addition to co-authoring a book with Edna about the history of the School of Nursing at MSU, Mary has published several journal articles and book chapters; worked with many graduate students on their research; and served the community through a variety of roles at a local hospital, health center for underserved people, church, women’s groups, and professional nursing organizations.  She believes that keeping a mirthful spirit at the forefront of all activities is a good strategy for making both salaried and volunteer work fun.  Edna and Mary now wear red hats and purple outfits as part of the Red Hat Society which has become an enjoyable part of creating mirthful retirement years

Laugh Often With Yourself and Others to Stay Well.

Mary I. Huntley



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