January 21, 2011

Emory Profile

Sheilah Conner: 5 deans, 46 years

Sheilah Conner, assistant to the dean at Emory Oxford College.

The call came just after her high school graduation. Oxford College was looking for an outstanding person to join the office of the registrar working with the director of admissions, Dallas Tarkenton (father of Georgia football great Fran Tarkenton). So local Newton County High School was contacted: Was there a graduate who had concentrated in business education whom they could suggest for the position? The student they recommended was Sheilah Graham. More than 45 years later, she is now Sheilah Conner, and she is still with Oxford College. 

Although she began with the office of the registrar, Conner’s talents were quickly recognized, and she was promoted into the position with which she has become synonymous -- assistant to the dean. Five of them. Dean Bond Fleming tapped her for the role in 1968, and she has remained as the calm and able right-hand person as four more made their transition into the deanship: William Moncrief, William Murdy, Dana Greene and Stephen Bowen. 


Along the way she has had transitions herself.

"When I arrived," says Conner, "there were only five secretaries, as we called them then: one for the dean, one for the associate dean, two for the registrar/admissions office and a cashier." 

There were no secretaries to serve the faculty. Phones in the administrative offices had two lines, one local and one to Atlanta (which was a long-distance call at the time). Documents were produced on typewriters; copies for testing were made on mimeograph machines. Office supplies were purchased in the bookstore, and the business manager would often buy supplies at a local Army surplus store. Total enrollment was about 400, and most students were from Georgia or Florida.

A 21st century environment

Today Conner looks out her window in Seney Hall at an Oxford College that enjoys a widely diverse student population of 900 and a totally wired-in, electronic and digital environment for learning and work.

She has made these changes seemingly effortlessly and with her signature grace and good humor.  She has become Oxford's go-to person and institutional memory. So often when a question of history or protocol arises, the answer is, "Ask Sheilah."

She describes part of her job as being "traffic manager," including balancing the dean’s schedule, coordinating communication between Oxford and the Atlanta campus and overseeing most of Oxford's official functions.

"I don't know how any dean would do this job without Sheilah," says Bowen. "In addition to her invaluable knowledge of the College and its history, she very efficiently anticipates and takes care of the myriad details involved in nearly every process or event." 


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