When Mary Lou Cantini began working as a secretary at the Case Institute of Technology, it was supposed to be a temporary situation. Her plan was to save money for her young family by working a few years before staying home full time with her children.
Even the most thought-out plans change. Yesterday, she celebrated 45 years of employment with the university at a surprise party hosted by her colleagues and friends.
"All of the people I've worked for have been wonderful. That's why I still work here," Cantini said after she received hugs, kisses and thanks for her years of service to the campus community. In addition to her work family, her husband, Regis, and her daughter, Lisa, also joined the celebration.
Cantini joins a handful of university staff who have reached the 45-year mark. According to the Department of Human Resources, Joe Cooper, Sue Gallop and Alex Schnittlinger also are part of the elite group.
President Barbara R. Snyder and Provost W.A. "Bud" Baeslack III presented Cantini with an engraved silver bracelet featuring the university's emblem. "This is only a little something to thank you for 45 years of service," Snyder said. "It's a tremendous asset for the university to have you here. This isn't the end of anything. It's a milestone." She also received tickets to several Cleveland Indians games from the Case School of Engineering, where she worked for several years.
Cantini, executive assistant to Deputy Provost Lynn Singer, has spent her career in an administrative capacity, something she trained for as a high school student in Pennsylvania. Although she joked that she can't remember all of her exact titles or how long she worked in each department, she does recall some of the milestones.
"I had the first maternity leave at the Case Institute," Cantini said. It was a time period when many mothers opted to leave their careers after having children. "I needed to come back to work, but I don't think they [her bosses] knew how to handle the situation." She ended up being granted three months' leave. Another memory that stands out for her is receiving the Distinguished Staff Award in 1992, the first year it was given out.
She also was here during the 1967 merger that created what is now Case Western Reserve University. "All of the changes I've seen have been good changes," she said.
Cantini worked for Jim Wagner, now president of Emory University, when he was with the Case School of Engineering and in the Office of the Provost. He sent a letter that was read aloud during the reception. "Few will have a deeper appreciation for you and your service," he wrote. He added that Cantini embodies the twin values of excellence and goodness.
Cantini's character is just one of the traits colleagues pointed out when describing why they've enjoyed working with her over the years. "She's one of the best employees you could have, and she does her best to protect and provide. She's also a friend," said Chris Ash, vice president for planning and budget. Cantini used to work for Ash.
Lynn Singer, whom Cantini currently works for, described her as "the essence of professionalism. She's indicative of the incredible staff we have here that makes this such a great place to work."
Denise Donahey, director of administration for the College of Arts and Sciences, added that in addition to her work ethic, Cantini "has probably contributed to all of our lives, as well as the university."
Cantini plans to continue those contributions. "If you're going to have an extended family, this [the university] is what it should be like. Every day is a blessing. I get satisfaction from helping other people."
She added that she doesn't have plans to retire anytime soon.
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