In Honor of Sue Haskins

On 13 February 2009, over 100 colleagues, associates, friends, and family members young and old came together in the new offices of the Department of History in Heller Hall to express their appreciation and best wishes at a farewell banquet for Suzanne Haskins. This was a most fitting celebration in honor of a person who for 40 years had played a crucial role in the operation, growth, and transformation of the Department. The variety of people attending, including several emeriti professors, were pleasant reminders of the long and wide ranging impact of Sue Haskins as an associate, mentor, and friend. The following is an excerpt from the speech delivered by Professor Theofanis G. Stavrou, Director of Modern Greek Studies:

By Theofanis Stavrou

Sue1.jpgSue, as she was affectionately called, joined the Department in 1969 as a secretary. She was a single mother at the time who cared deeply for her only child, Michael. Indeed one of the qualities that impressed me the most about Sue from the beginning was the devotion to her family, but especially her son and how hard she worked to care for him properly, until many years later when she was assisted in this task by her husband Norm. The Department was happy to welcome the many members of Sue's family who were able to attend this celebration.

Despite the 60s 'revolutionary' spirit, when she came to us, Sue was remin-ded that she should address all faculty members by their last name. Moreover, she was instructed not to keep candy on her table because it would cause many of the faculty and some graduate students to linger at her place of work for too long, a tendency encouraged by the fact that Sue resembled a Modigliani portrait. This young staff member handled all situations with the grace and style that became her trademark for the rest of her career and which earned her the respect and affection of faculty and students alike.

Soon Sue became director of graduate studies, after which she again returned to the front office as head person and ultimately as associate administrator. In some way or other, Sue affected the lives of staff, faculty, and graduate students profoundly. Her professional skills and efficiency became proverbial, and it is fair to say that every chair came to appreciate how much easier his/her job was made because of Sue's steadfastness.

Sue2.jpgPart of Sue's success lay in the fact that she was always sensitive to the needs of others. She was also quick to become acquainted with technological innovations. For example, it is Sue who in some respects helped the department make the transition from the typewriter and the stencil to the word processor and the digital age, not to mention the agonizing transition from the quarter to the semester system. And it was quite appropriate that this celebration took place in Heller Hall, to which Sue had just supervised the complex process of moving the Department of History from the Social Sciences Tower. As always, Sue's touch made a complex and painful process look simple, seamless, and effortless. Of course, this was only the latest manifestation of her managerial brilliance.

All along, I admired the way that Sue dealt with the staff under her supervision. She had a gift for apportioning the va-rious jobs according to capacity and skills. Equally impressive was her sensibility in arranging the work space for maximum comfort and efficiency. She understood synergy in the best sense of the word. In matters of office management, she became a mentor to many faculty members who became directors of centers or had occasion to supervise the office work of graduate students and/or supporting staff. She had a genius for fostering new talent and modeled leadership that inspired the best from her coworkers. It is Sue who handpicked and groomed her successor, Amanda Nelson, making sure to gift the Department with an equally adept administrator.

Above all, Sue Haskins loved the faculty. She treated them fairly and respectfully, and she remained loyal to them to the end. With many she became good friends, including myself. She was well acquainted with the joys and frustrations of a career in academia, which became increasingly and almost unbearably bureaucratic. And she played a major role in making the weight of bureaucracy lighter so that faculty members could pursue their scholarship and other creative endeavors more freely. For example, she helped several faculty members with preparing their manuscripts for publication and others with preparing camera ready copies of scholarly journals of which they were the editors. What's more, Sue hastened many graduate students' graduation by typing most of the dissertations of those who graduated in the 70s and 80s.

Sue3.jpgMost moving of all was Sue's response when sickness or other tragic events befell a faculty member. Sue knew how to provide the correct measure of comfort without being intrusive. And for those faculty members who, from time to time, experienced a sense of isolation, Sue would do her best to bring them back and help the process of their reintegration into the Department. The ability to do this was a gift that Sue possessed in great measure and the Department was the ultimate beneficiary.

Ours was a deeply heartfelt send off – even including a serenade by the faculty. We wish her and her extended family the very best and look forward to Sue's travel accounts. Her patient resolve, her shock of short-cropped hair, and her warm smile will surely be missed.

Categories

Pages

Powered by Movable Type 4.31-en

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by cla published on May 18, 2010 12:15 PM.

New Books by Faculty was the previous entry in this blog.

Ming Li Tchou & Pearl Bergad: Bridging China and Minnesota is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.