June 06, 2007

Case Western Reserve University staff member recounts 30 years in central administration

Lynne Ford to retire June 30 as secretary of Faculty Senate, University Faculty


Lynne Ford, who has been a fixture in central administration at Case Western Reserve University since 1980, says she wanted to work at the university from the first time she saw the campus. Not because of its national academic reputation. Not because of its proximity to her Cleveland Heights home. Not because it is part of the cultural hub called University Circle.

It was Adelbert Hall.

Ford, who retires June 30 as secretary of the Faculty Senate and University Faculty, says she was fascinated by the sandy-colored stone and brick of the structure and thought it would be fabulous to work in a building of much intricacy and grandeur. The striking center staircase in the foyer that greeted each visitor, as well as the hallways lined with oversized portraits of presidents past whose eyes seemed to direct one throughout the building especially captivated her.

Art imitates life

Adelbert Hall

Perhaps her fascination with the building stems from her affinity for art history and architecture, a lifelong interest that she at one time thought to pursue at McGill University in her native Montreal, before yielding that notion to nursing. She began studies toward what was then a diploma in nursing but was uninspired by the instruction or the approach to nursing care.

She left school, married, moved to New York City with husband, Jeff, then an aspiring professor of English literature, and began to raise a family. After he completed his doctorate and taught for six years at Columbia University, he accepted a job at Cleveland State University in Cleveland. With three small children in tow, the couple relocated to a home in Cleveland Heights, a community populated by other young professors with families. Ford was especially attracted to University Circle, where she could bring her children to dance and music programs and she could immerse herself in the exhibits at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Then she saw the campus.

A neighbor told her about a job at nearby Case Western Reserve University. She admits she was far more interested in the Adelbert Hall building than the work of the university at first. In spite of a fire in 1991 that left the structure a shell of its former self, Ford marvels at the building's rebirth. Today's Adelbert Hall is a mix of the old and the new, she says. Although the center staircase is no more, the portraits remain as well as a new airy and spacious fourth floor, with glass windows that welcome in splashes of sunlight and the gray haze of the Cleveland skyline.

A work of history

She began working at the university part time in 1980 and coordinated academic conferences and retreats. She also provided administrative support to the offices of the president, provost and the deans. That kind of exposure to central office administrators, coupled with her efficiency and pleasant demeanor, eventually led to an offer to work full time.

"I had the good fortune of working with really talented and committed people." Her first boss was Patricia Baldwin Kilpatrick (GRS '51, physical education), who was a faculty member in the physical education department, a dean, the secretary of the university faculty, university marshal and the first woman vice president, among other leadership roles. Ford describes her as a "most interesting person who could be demanding," but one who remains devoted to the university even after her retirement in 1992. "She was generous with her time. She gave me confidence in myself. It was a great opportunity to work with her; we remain friends today."

Under Kilpatrick, Ford worked with the Visiting Committees that required her to manage correspondence, meeting schedules, agendas and overall communications for 11 different committees; plus that of the board of overseers and board of trustees; all this before the advent of the Blackberry, the Oracle calendar system, and, to some degree, widespread use of electronic mail.

After Kilpatrick retired, Richard "Dick" Zdanis, the provost and university vice president, created space in the second-floor office suite in the newly rebuilt Adelbert Hall for Ford to work in, and there she's remained for more than 20 years.

"My job has changed, my bosses have changed but my views and this space (her office) have not," she jokes.

Apart from changes in leadership—she has worked under six presidents: David Ragone, Pytte, David Auston, James Wagner, Edward M. Hundert and Gregory L. Eastwood; three provosts: Zdanis, Wagner and John Anderson—little occurred to change the nature of her work or her perspective about work, though her duties have increased over time.

She says it will take her less than an hour to clean out her office. She has not accumulated "things." She's been committed to maintaining the delicate work-life balance that so many others struggle to manage. "Work is work and life is what's important. I emotionally, physically kept work here so I was able to keep a perspective on things." She's sprinkled a few pictures of her now adult children and her grandchildren in her office, but nothing more to reflect a robust and active life at and apart from 10900 Euclid Avenue.

The next phase

As her life in academia nears its end, Ford is preparing for her next phase. She plans to continue synchronized ice skating, something she has done since she got her first pair of skates—at the same time as her first pair of shoes like so many other children growing up in Canada. She also plans to spend time with her grandchildren, and perhaps coax her husband, who retired from Cleveland State last year, to visit Cape Cod or Montreal. Initial plans are to get up late most days and drink three cups of coffee while reading a book to its conclusion. She also hopes to dabble in knitting, sewing, "digging in my flower garden" and make visits to University Circle.

"I'll miss going there on my lunch breaks, walking around the lagoon, listening to a rehearsal in Haydn Hall or seeing a lunchtime dance recital in Mather Dance Center."

Her successor, Susan Zull, is no stranger to the university or the duties of the provost's office. In fact, Ford took over Zull's duties as secretary of the Faculty Senate when Zull left the university a few years ago to pursue other interests. "I have no advice for Susan other than I'll be available if she needs me. A call from her or anyone would not be an intrusion on my retirement."

For more information contact Marsha Bragg, 216.368.6949.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, June 6, 2007 01:00 AM | News Topics: Administration

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