As this part of my professional career draws to a close, I find myself reflecting often about all the things for which I am grateful. So, let me start with my professional life:
- The institutions in which I have worked
Earlier this fall, I was talking with a colleague at another university who was making a decision about a job offer. It reminded me again of how lucky I have been to work at 3 universities that are well run, civil, and productive places. I’m grateful for those productive work environments – on campus and in the library – that I experienced at the University of Houston, the University of Kentucky and, of course, here at The Ohio State University. And I am always grateful for the robust and committed support of our donors, particularly those who love our libraries and support us in a variety of ways both financial and with their time.
Part and parcel of those great institutions has been the leaders with whom I have worked. For the most part, I have been blessed to work with leaders I respected and admired. I doubt I would be the leader I have become without their examples. As I have moved up into higher administration, my appreciation has only deepened for the tough challenges and decisions they face each day. And in each of them, I have seen the way that their values drive how they conduct their work, each day trying to make the best decisions they can. I have aspired to conduct my own administrative career in a way that was consistent with the deep values with which I was raised. Thank you to my bosses: Bill Studer, Bill Crowe, Joe Branin, Mike Nietzel, Joe Alutto, Joe Steinmetz and now my boss of 2 weeks, Bruce McPheron. And I tip my hat to my vice provost/vice president colleagues in OAA – you are the best.
Some of those leaders have become close mentors for me. I could fill this afternoon with examples of the good advice and wisdom I have gained from Dana Rooks. I know that many of us talk about our parents “talking” in our heads long after they have left this world (even right now my mother is asking me if I have written my thank you notes and whether I should be refreshing my lipstick). But my mentors also talk in my head on a regular basis. Yes, Dana, sometimes I don’t even have to call you for advice, because I already know what you’re going to tell me to do.
I also want to thank Mike Nietzel who was Provost at Kentucky when I was hired. Mike gave me my first chance to lead an ARL library. Mike had a clear strategy about hiring his deans. Having been trained at a Big Ten institution himself, he sought out associate deans from the Big Ten and hired them for their first dean’s position. But each of those decisions was a calculated risk. I am grateful that he gave me that opportunity and supported my early learning curve. Please do not ask Terry Birdwhistell for a list of my rookie mistakes. And my going to Kentucky was an extraordinary experience for me and prepared me to be able to return to Ohio State to take up my dream job.
- An administrative team to die for
Coming back to OSU as Director of University Libraries in January 2010 was a dream come true. I knew I was coming back to a healthy organization with a newly renovated Thompson Library. I knew that the existing administrative team included talented individuals such as Rai Goerler, Sally Rogers and Jim Bracken. But early in 2010, I realized that those individuals all had other plans – either to retire or to take another position (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t because I was coming back).
But, that loss of talent was also an opportunity to redesign the organizational structure of the OSU Libraries and to recruit 5 new associate directors. Unquestionably, the key to success is all about the team you work with. I could never have imagined what a gift those individuals would be to me each and every day. Alison, Beth, Karla, Lisa and Lisa are a magnificent team on whom I rely. And yes, then the wonderful Quanetta came on board as my executive assistant. I’m not sure what I am going to do without her! Each of these individuals amazes me with their intelligence, wisdom, enthusiasm, productivity and optimism. And they are simply fun to work with.
- The professional colleagues – staff and faculty alike – with whom I have worked
When I made the decision to come to OSU in 1987, I saw it as an appropriate next step in my career. I had been a librarian for 6+ years and had a budding professional service profile in ALA. Like many of you I arrived as an untenured librarian working to achieve tenure. I began a publishing career, made my name in technical services and collections work, and eventually rose to the rank of Professor. I had amazing experiences at OSU including being in on the ground floor of the foundation of OhioLINK. Perhaps even more importantly to me personally, I built a set of professional friends around the country with whom I am quite close. I’m honored that a few of those individuals were able to join us today.
But I thought when I came to OSU, I would work here for 3 to 4 years and then move back to the south. After all, my family thought I was crazy to be moving north to work with a bunch of Yankees. I remember my colleague, Gay Dannelly saying to me that “I might be surprised at how Ohio State gets into your blood.” Indeed, I fell in love with Ohio State and I feel in love, but more about that a bit later.
I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to each member of our library faculty and staff as well as those who have retired or moved on to new positions. You simply do great work to support our students, faculty and staff. Often in my consulting work, I am amazed at some of the situations I find. I always come home to OSU thankful for your hard work, civility, enthusiasm and willingness to take risks and embrace change.
My success at work is founded on a bedrock of values including the balanced life example I learned from my husband, Frank. I’ve learned how to work hard and play hard.
- My parents – Mae Nell and Leland Pitts
My parents, Mae Nell and Leland Pitts created a home life rich in love, values and fun. In particular for a female of my generation, having parents who believed that you could do and accomplish anything you set your mind to was an extraordinary gift.
My mother’s friends often told the story about her showing them a copy of the journal that I edited for 13 years. She would point to my name on the cover and say “I don’t understand what it says inside this magazine, but that’s my daughter’s name on the front.” That about sums it up – unwavering support and unconditional love. While I’m convinced that they weren’t always entirely sure what my work life entailed, they were very proud of me. One of my fondest memories and my favorite picture is the one of her with me at my 2003 professorial lecture.
- My family and friends in Cincinnati
A big part of that balanced life I have is 20 years of life commuting to Cincinnati for the weekend. I have often characterized my life as 4 days of high level professional career and three days of country club wife. When I married Frank, I also gained 5 siblings and two stepchildren; my Diedrichs family is an extraordinary gift to me. I am very thankful for Celene, Eric and Evan who live in Sarasota, Florida. Evan is the first grandchild who will be 16 in January. My only suggestion to you is not to play bridge with him as he plays competitive youth bridge at a level that is a bit intimidating. My stepson Josh and his wife Lisa have just given us our newest grandchild, Jack, to join his precious 19 month old sister, Kate.
My Cincinnati life also includes the joys of being married to a native Cincinnatian and a wonderful group of friends and golf partners. I’m really grateful that a number of them made the trip to Columbus for my retirement reception.
Of course, I have left the best for last. My husband, best golf partner, and best friend, Frank. I’m not sure when we first met that Frank could even have imagined that he would marry a liberal academic much less one who would not live with him full-time for 20+ years. But, that’s just the point – he might not have imagined it, but he also “really gets me”. He knew the importance of my career to me and understood that we could find a way to have both a rich personal life as well as a robust career. He’s a great sounding board and wise counselor. And, he does all the grocery shopping and cooking in our family. I could not have done it without him.
He is, of course, responsible for my golf addiction introducing me to the game when we met. He often tells the story that he wasn’t sure that I would ever break 100 when I first started to play. But, that was before he knew about my very competitive nature. One of my retirement goals is to break 80. And just in case you’re wondering, I got the first hole in one in the family too!
Hole in ones are wonderful as well as low 18 hole scores, but the happiest moments in golf have nothing to do with ball-striking. This quote from Irishman Dermot Desmond captures the true happiness in golf for me:
“There are three joys in golf:
- How you play
- Where you play and
- Whom you play with.
And the first two are overrated.”
Since I announced my plan to retire, people often comment that I’m too young to retire. But I would remind you that I was a department head in an ARL Library at the young age of 24 – as a result, I’ve been a library administrator for 33 years. The last time I saw our dear friend, Susan McNamara, before she died, she reminded me that I had done my life’s work, and that moving on to a new stage was a bold and appropriate next step. As she so often was, Susan was spot on. I’ve lived one of Teddy Roosevelt’s beliefs: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
I’ve had an amazing time for the past 13 years as a library dean, but I want there to be a bridge between working and retiring that for me is just less intense. I want some evenings back, some weekends back, and not to have to be responsible for 250 people. I will continue to work professionally particularly as a consultant with my partner, Lisa German, but taking only those jobs that interest me and allow me to indulge all the other passions in my life – golf of course, cycling, bridge, musical theater, tennis, needlepoint, reading and most importantly, to be able to live full time with my husband for the first time in our 20 year marriage.
The Jason Mraz song, Lucky, probably sums it up best for me:
Lucky I’m in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again
Thank you so much for all the notes, emails, cards and kind words that you have sent to me over these last days. It means a great deal to me. The University has hired a great new leader in Damon Jaggars and I welcome the chance as Professor Emeritus to watch all the wonderful new things he will do as your leader.