Emory Report
October 6, 2008
Volume 61, Number 7



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October 6
, 2008
‘Stories’ show staff as Emory’s backbone

By Stacey Jones

This year’s Telling Our Stories, sponsored by the Center for Women, for the first time featured the narratives of longtime staff members. With their “boots” on the ground, the women who shared their stories have seen and facilitated many changes at Emory during their tenures here. Linda Calloway, Joyce Piatt and Maggie Stephens discussed their personal and professional lives during a laughter-filled evening on Sept. 18 at Miller-Ward Alumni House. Moderator Carolyn Bregman began by asking them about their first recollections of Emory.

Calloway, undergraduate program coordinator in women’s studies, remembers walking into the physics building in 1989 greeted by the sight of “torn carpet, a box of dog bones, and plaster falling from the ceiling” — and coming away with a job and a mentor in the guise of the department’s former chair, the late Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.

A recently retired Woodruff Library staff member, Piatt worked on a variety of campus governance committees during her 35-year career at Emory, including serving as chair from 2005–08 of the Senate Campus Development Committee. She began as a part-timer here, working with the library director’s secretary, who began each day by filling a pitcher of water, putting out fresh glasses, and sharpening four pencils for her boss.

Stephens also had a story about pencils — she filled out her Emory application with one. That same day she interviewed for a job, and paid the fine for her first parking ticket. The sociology department administrator spent 10 years on the Staff Day committee, eight as chair, and two terms as chair of the Employee Council.

A lawyer, Bregman’s memorable first day included falling outside the trailer in the law school parking lot, where she would work. When her supervisor encouraged her to report the fall, Bregman told her, “There is no way I am filling out an incident report on my first day of work.” Bregman, who now directs volunteer programs and services at the Alumni Association, provided much of the evening’s levity, along with Stephens, ranging from the occasional quirky question — “What was your most memorable outfit in high school or middle school” — to her admission that when a career counselor asked her to make of list five “alternate” occupations, she came up with 31, including museum guard and talk show host.

Although humor was at the forefront, the women spoke candidly about career challenges and the difficulties of meshing family life and personal goals with work.

Calloway, who earned an undergraduate degree over the course of 10 years via a courtesy scholarship, was ambivalent about attending her graduate ceremony. “One day I was walking on campus and saw the beautiful array of students, and I decided to march,” she said. Later, when a women’s studies major sent her a note, saying how proud she was of Calloway, she felt even better about her decision.

Stephens led the Employee Council’s fight to eliminate the annual ceiling on sick leave for staff, which didn’t accrue, calling on then-president James Laney to change long-standing policy. This was before the days of short-term disability, she said, “And it was the first time I was actually able to do something for the staff, which was important to me.”

In 2003, when the Woodruff Library tower began literally to crumble, Piatt was tapped to work with Facilities Management to abate the faltering structure. She said that she feels proud of her role in helping to repair the tower and make it safe.

These women’s stories reminded the evening’s attendees that while faculty may be the heart of the University and students its lifeblood, staff are indeed Emory’s backbone.