“Don’t slide and fall,” I would tell Vivian when she’d step over stacks of unsorted mail coming in for our 9:00 a.m. daily meetings. “I can’t do without you!”
She’d laugh. “I’m used to it.” A bit younger than I, Vivian wasn’t easily fazed. It was my first time to have my own secretary and I often told her: “This job is a joint effort. With all your help, you make me look good.”
And that was true. I would’ve had to paddle much harder to stay afloat without her.
I had plunged eagerly into my new work as an assistant dean. Each day reminded me of when I’d been acting chair at Trinity. In that job, the day’s mail had taught me what I needed to do. Now, it wasn’t only the mail, but the phone, and people at the door.
And meetings: deans meetings, faculty meetings, division directors meetings. And committees: standing committees, ad-hoc committees, university-wide committees. Each two hours long. I bumped into myself coming and going, gathering up agendas and folders between meetings. When I’d get back to my office for the day, I’d have a stack of items to add to my “to do” list.
I loved organizing—making sense of the dozens of tidbits that piled up in my six-by-nine-inch notebook. Between my excursions outside my office, I methodically addressed each item and checked it off as I completed it. I loved seeing piles of paper diminish. Often my office resembled the aftermath of a paper avalanche.
Early on, Vivian handed me a letter to sign saying to our agencies that all students were compliant with health requirements. …