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Georgie Leone, administrative assistant for the Center for African American Studies, has worked at Wesleyan for 41 years in four departments. She started here at the age of 18.
 
Posted 05.23..05

Administrative Assistant Makes Plans to Retire After 42-Year Career at Wesleyan

Q: So, you’re one of those rarities.

A: Yes. I am originally from Middletown. We were referred to by the Wesleyan boys as “townies” way back when. I was born right here at the Middlesex Hospital. My maiden name is Lockhart and I am the oldest child of three children -- the only girl and two brothers. One brother has passed on, but I have a baby brother who is 16 years younger than me. He obviously was a big surprise.

Q: When were you hired at Wesleyan and in what department?

A: Wesleyan hired me on October 14, 1963 to be a catalog assistant and the secretary to the head of the Catalog Department in Olin Library. I worked there for 15 years.

Q: How many departments have you worked for over the years?

A: I worked at the Graduate Liberal Studies Program as a secretary to the assistant director and I left there after 3 1/2 years. I then went to the Office of Admission for about two years as the secretary to one of the deans. And this year I will celebrate 21 years as the administrative assistant in the African American Studies Program, Center for African American Studies. I still can’t believe it myself that I have been at Wesleyan going on 42 years.

Q: What about Wesleyan has kept you here?

A: I enjoyed the work I did at the library and the people who I worked with were wonderful. I think most of them were in their early 30s and 40s and older, and me being 18 years of age I was like a little sister or daughter to some of them.

Q: When you came to Wesleyan, wasn’t in an all-male university?

A: Working at Wesleyan when you are 18 years old with that many male students around was so much fun. I definitely had a date every Saturday night if I wanted one. I wasn’t “boy crazy”, but I wasn’t Sister Theresa either so I can remember going to football games, dances and fraternity parties. Curfew was midnight for the girls to be on campus. The students dressed for dinner in the navy blue jackets. I really did meet some real nice guys back then, however, I ultimately married a high school classmate and we’ve been happily married for 39 years.

Q: What have been the major changes at Wesleyan that you have noticed in your time here?

A: I would have to say the addition of the women to Wesleyan in the late 1960s. I am from the ”old school” in many ways and it was difficult to get used to seeing the women around campus. I guess now it is old hat but back then was another story.

Q: What are your thoughts on your co-workers?

A: My co-workers are the best. The faculty that have come through our doors over the many years I have been here have been fantastic. The concern for the program and the members of its staff is a major priority. We definitely all get along very well. The only big change now is that I am turning out to be the “oldest in age” and not the youngest any longer. The new hires seem to be younger and younger all of the time. I am treated with a great deal of respect by the members of the faculty, staff and the students. I guess you might say my reputation has preceded me know matter where I have been. The faculty and staff at the center are my extended family.

Q: Do you interact much with the students?

A: The students have changed in some ways, but I do enjoy the interaction I have with them. I supervise about four to six students each semester as office assistants. They seem to be a little needier and maybe a little bolder. But they seem to know what they want and they go for it. In general, I would have to say that most of my dealings with students are positive. I always like the beginning of the school year when the frosh enter. They look so young and I feel like I have to “mother” them.

Q: What’s a day like for you there in the Center for African American Studies?

A: My day can change from minute to minute. It also changes with the time of the year. Right now I’m dealing with the graduation reception, students storage at our center and making sure that all of our senior majors have passed their spring courses successfully to complete the major. I also am on the phone a lot, and we hold a class in our lounge each semester so students are always in and out. I meet with people, take computer courses when necessary, take care of the office budget, faculty accounts and just be here.

Q: How has the African American Studies Program grown and evolved over your time there?

A: I think the program has seen some highs and lows during the years I have been here. I came to the department in 1984 on the first day of school. Can you imagine! And this was a first for me. I had never worked in an academic department before. In 1984 the AFAM major had just been approved. It was a big time and our first graduating class of AFAM Majors was in 1985. We had five of them. It was a very exciting time. Now we have anywhere from 15 to 20 each year. Then, the chair and the director were one and the same. A few years later a director was hired specifically to direct the center and the chair was a tenured faculty member. We now have two tenured faculty members serving, one as chair and one as the director. We also have five tenured faculty members as opposed to having one or two tenured faculty members in the earlier years. So I guess you can say we’ve grown in that respect. And that’s a good thing for sure.

Q: Being here so long, do many people come up to you and ask, “So, what was it like back then?”

A: Yes, they do ask, but most of the time I think they are more taken by the fact that I have been here so long. You don’t hear of anyone staying in one place of employment for a long time. I have one professor that when she introduces me to someone and tells them the length of time I have been here, she proceeds to tell them that, “Georgie knows where all of the bodies are buried.” And I guess she is right, I can go back and remember some things like they were yesterday, but then again, trying to remember what went on 42 years ago is not always easy. Some of it is starting to escape me.

Q: Can you elaborate on your community services?

A: I am very active in an organization called the Middletown Emblem Club No. 452. It is affiliated with the Middletown Elks Lodge in Middletown. I am a charter member and have been active since 1970 when the organization was instituted in Middletown. It is definitely a service club more than social. We foster and perpetuate patriotism, we are involved in many aspects of community service with the elderly and the youth. I also have been very involved in coordinating a program called “Hawkwing,” which provides children and the elderly on the Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota with warm clothing, personal items and books. Presently I am in the process of coordinating with the Head Librarian at the York Women’s Prison in Niantic with providing the women with books and personal items. I was chosen Citizen of the Year by the Middletown Elks Lodge in 2001 and was also chosen by the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Prevention Council as the Father Michael O’Hara Volunteer of the Year Award in 2002.

Q: What's your involvement with drug rehabilitation services in the area?

A: I've put in many volunteer hours with our local Drug Rehabilitation Centers. I have received Emblem state and national awards for my volunteerism in Drug Awareness. I am also the Treasurer for the Substance Abuse Prevention Council in Middletown where I have been an active member for the past 10 years.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: In my not so spare time, I am an avid gardener and I love to flower arrange. I call it my therapy. Just let me play in that dirt and I let the rest of the world go by. I have also been an active member and Past President of the Portland River Valley Garden Club for the past 15 years. I also like to cook and bake and believe it or not I like to clean my house too.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: My husband Ray and I are of Italian descent, you know the Mellili Sicilian’s that infiltrated Middletown over the years. We both attended and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1963. We do not have any children, but we have lots of nieces, nephews and now great nieces and nephews and they have grown up with us. They are scattered mostly in Florida and Texas.

Q: Do you have any plans to retire? If so, when?

A: Right now, I am looking at June 2006. I think 42 years is a long time to work and I would like to take some time for me. I would also like to be home with my mom for a while. She will turn 80 years old in June and has had some health problems this year. I want to be able to be home with her while the two of us can still have some fun shopping, go to the spa, take in a movie, or just stay at home and spend the day doing nothing at all. I think I am ready. It has been a glorious ride, but now it is time to get off.

By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor