Yesterday afternoon, I was in the familiar position of pulling folders to bring home with me to read today. The applications have been moved this year from the back room on the first floor of Lunder to a less cramped and more spacious space on the second floor where our incessant mumbling and the general talking-to-ourselves that marks this process is less bothersome to our dedicated support staff that is actually trying to get some work done. One day I was up there replacing folders I’d read while pulling the next batch and trying to keep them generally sorted out, talking to myself as usual, when I realized that one of our beleaguered student workers was off to the side, trying to get something done herself. I apologized for my soto voce ramblings, but she said, “Oh, I don’t even hear it any more; everyone over here talks to themselves.” Sigh.
The new location means that there is always a different audience for those mumblings, depending on who happens to be pulling files. While I was in the midst of leafing through the boxes yesterday, our office manager Penny came in triumphantly bearing a 24” stack of files and announced that these were the last of the “new” applications to be readied for reading: in other words, they are all processed at last: no new files are going to be added to those boxes on the second floor. Nearly two months after the deadline, the staff has been able to sort, collate, record, file, enter and proof the thousands of applications, recommendations, transcripts, midyear grades, test scores, arts supplements, etc. etc. It’s an amazing task, and it’s over. Yippee!
So that means that we readers ought to be feeling as if the end of the reading season is in sight, and I guess I’m beginning to catch a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. At this point, though, many of the applications are missing a component: the test scores weren’t received; the student inadvertently neglected to hit the “Submit” button for the Colby Supplement; the recommendations are in but the transcript is not. So many of the files I have pulled recently are not complete, and I have spent a good portion of the last several reading sessions sending e-mail messages to counselors and students in the search for credentials. And yes, I am still surrounded by stacks of folders.
One person isn’t, though. Barbara Chase was the office manager in Lunder for nine years. Last spring, she announced that she would retire in the fall, and in November we had a wonderful, elegant retirement dinner for her right in Lunder House in the comfortably elegant rooms that by day host our visiting students and their families. Then tragedy struck in the form of the death of our beloved colleague Tom Kopp. In addition to the profound personal and professional void that resulted, on the most practical level we were down an experienced reader. (To call Tom “an experienced reader” is just silly. There is no one at Colby with more experience than Tom had.) Barbara graciously agreed to postpone her well-earned retirement to help Lunder House in a very difficult period. Although she knew the process from all angles, she had never formally evaluated applications before but she eagerly learned the nuances and did a substantial number of “second reads.” Of course she was a bonus resource to Penny who had to learn the office manager job during its most challenging season.
But last Friday was finally Barbara’s last official day in Lunder. It’s a loss in many ways. Barbara did a lot of things very well, but her specialty was finding things: the SAT score gone astray, the application cover folder that had wandered away from its rightful file box, any number of obscure pieces of information locked away in our cantankerous database. She tended not to let situations or people ruffle her feathers, even when tempers were running high right before the mailing deadlines. She’s flexible and patient, but she firmly stands her ground when it’s the right thing to do. Personally, one of the things I’ll miss most is not having Barbara around to talk with about books.
So we wish her well in what I’m sure will be a very active retirement. Barbara’s undergraduate degree is in studio art and I’m guessing she’ll be putting those creative talents to good use. Thanks for everything.