Wednesday is Administrative Professionals Day. Our AA’s work hard to make all of the rest of us look good. We should thank them everyday, not just on April 24th. Administrative Professionals Day always reminds me of Anne Marie. She set the standard for Administrative Pros at UCF and I think it most appropriate to repeat a blog post I wrote for her retirement party…
Today, Anne Marie retires from the UCF College of Business. We plan on sending her out in style. God knows she deserves it. Anne Marie has worked for at least four different deans and has solved an unimaginable number of problems, both real and perceived. Most of those issues never got to the dean’s door.
Deans love this. So, it came as no surprise that when I reached out to my predecessors and asked them to help me tell her story that they responded with enthusiasm. We share a fondness for this classy woman who lightened our burdens and endured our peculiarities with style and grace. I will try to be brief, but can’t resist being a little tongue and cheek along the way while I poke some fun at me and my predecessors in an effort to highlight her many talents…
As with most good things in the College, the never shy Dick Huseman takes credit. He told me in a recent phone call that he hired Anne Marie. Dick was in need of a new executive assistant and got a recommendation from someone in the community to give her an interview. I strongly suspect that Anne Marie was interviewing Dick more than the other way around, but somehow they came to terms. My guess is that, like most things, Anne Marie figured she could fix him.
Dick quickly learned that he had found a terrific gate keeper who kept an ear to the ground and brought an air of professionalism to the College. This latter quality is strikingly apparent in one of my favorite photos in the college archive: It is of a dashing Dick leaning against the receptionist desk next to the immaculate Anne Marie, with a young Cindy Colon (looking like Annette Funicello) seated to his left. Every time I see that photo I think: I would definitely do business with these people.
It is a truism in dean searches that they always want the opposite of the last one. I am told that Tom Keon is as reserved as Dick is effervescent. He certainly did something right as he led the College through incredible change and growth. Not surprisingly, Tom gives Anne Marie equal billing in their success, writing..
….”Anne Marie de Govia, or as I fondly remember AM, was a true partner to me for the 14 years we worked together in the dean’s office at UCF. There are many wonderful traits that I could describe but I prefer to focus on just a few. First and foremost, AM is a true professional who never accepted less than perfect for any and all work that crossed her desk. Second, as dean, everyone that had contact with the office would remark on how helpful, how friendly, and what a joy she was to interact with at all times. And, of course, how lucky I was to have her as an assistant. Finally, she was a friend. She was always there to cheer, support, and provide a warm heart and ear to listen. I still miss her. God bless, and good luck, my friend and colleague.”
When Tom departed, Caribbean English collided with North Carolina speak. No one can smooth over a tense situation with a folksy response better than Foard Jones. Attackers leave both comforted and a bit confused. I suspect Anne Marie took on the role of translator. Foard acknowledges he certainly was in need of her help, writing…
…”Sophisticated, warm, intelligent, and dedicated are just a few ways to describe Anne Marie De Govia. I could not have asked for a better chief of staff and partner in crime. I quickly found myself using the word “we” a lot. As in “Anne Marie, how should we handle this?” or “what should we do now?” But more than her administrative acumen and experience, I could count on her easy laugh, humor, and tales of Carnival to make the day a little brighter and less insane. Sometimes you just get lucky. I surely did with the opportunity to work alongside Anne Marie. She made a difference in the lives of many in many ways.”
Then came the guy from Vegas, as direct as Foard is subtle. By the time I came to UCF, it was Anne Marie’s College. I would regularly remark that while people in the College didn’t know each other very well that everyone knew Anne Marie. The College it seemed flowed through her, perhaps because she was charged with helping everyone figure the new guy out.
It wasn’t hard to see Anne Marie’s talent, but it took me a little while to decipher her three distinct looks…
Look One only appears when she has a Caribbean student in her office needing help with a largely self-inflicted crisis. That look means “What exactly were you thinking before you did that unbelievably stupid thing…I’m not sure I can, or should, save you.” She saved them anyway. They were grateful.
Look Two occurs when someone is claiming that I said something that she is sure is stupid, but Anne Marie can’t rule out the possibility that I said it. These encounters usually end with a sigh of relief (she was grateful it was nonsense and she wouldn’t have to fix it), but on occasion would lead to Look Three.
Look Three is a very wry smile that means “Dean I am about to teach you something about the college that will save you from your dumb self: Be grateful.”
We lost Anne Marie shortly after she retired, but I see a lot of her in many of our A.A.’s from John Paul’s calming influence in a storm, to the way Susan has trained Ajai, Angelika handles Jim, or Renee is working to break in Pradeep, to how Paula and Jennifer keep tabs on their wandering bosses. Then there is how Tina, Andrea and Cindy make sure I don’t do something stupid ( it takes a village in my case). Which, quite frankly might be better than Gregg where no single person wants to take responsibility for him as evidenced by the fact that none of the Dixon School’s three assistants are willing to have their picture up on the web. They prefer to remain anonymous. But to those of us who depend on them everyday to conduct the business of our unit and make us look good, our administrative assistants are anything but anonymous to us and we want them to know we couldn’t get it done without them.. Anne Marie would be proud.