As three high-ranking employees prepare to leave Student and Academic Support Services, GW administrators are unsure how to replace the irreplaceable, said Robert Chernak, vice president for SASS.
Ann Webster, SASS assistant vice president, and David McElveen, SASS associate director for campus life, will retire at the end of the semester. In addition, LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president for SASS special services, will leave GW for Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
As a result of their departure, GW’s administration probably will reorganize its departments, said GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. As part of the Work Smart Effort, a program designed to allow administrators to accomplish the same amount of work with fewer employees, replacements have not been hired, he said. Final decisions have not been made.
“We don’t want to rush into judgment,” Chernak said. He said Webster, McElveen and Strong’s job requirements were tailored to their special skills and said the administration is basking in the nostalgia of their careers.
Webster spent 25 years as the director of housing and residential life. In 1991, she was promoted to assistant vice president.
Chernak said he recalls two other occasions when Webster said she would retire. After the second time, the administration readjusted her responsibilities so she could work only three days a week, but Webster still came to work every day.
“That just tells you what kind of person she is,” Chernak said.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said he will miss walking up the Rice Hall stairs every morning at 7:30 a.m. with Webster.
Trachtenberg said he would miss playing racquetball with her.
“In all the years I have worked with her, she never let me win,” Trachtenberg said.
McElveen was a pilot in the Air Force. During his military career, he came to GW to get his master’s degree in engineering.
“After graduation, I just never lost contact,” he said.
In 1979, McElveen returned to GW and applied for a job. In four hours, he was offered three positions, he said.
The highlights of his career include the conversion of Guthridge Hall from an apartment building to a residential hall, the renovation of the Thurston Hall lobby and the installation of sprinkler systems in all of the residence halls, McElveen said.
He said his happiest recent memory is the construction of New Hall, only the second residence hall to be built from scratch by the University.
Though Webster will miss her colleagues, she will also miss the marvelous students who made her job worthwhile, she said.
McElveen said he would miss GW students most of all because they give him a constant perspective on young people.
“I think they’re most important,” he said. “They represent the future of the country and, in many cases, the future of the world.”
Though times change, retirement does not mean goodbye, Webster said. She said she plans to return for basketball games and other events.
“GW has been my home,” she said.
Like Webster, McElveen said he hopes to return. If invited, he will help with the proposed technology upgrade in the GW community, he said.
Though Webster and McElveen said they will miss GW, both said they are looking forward to retirement as well.
After 32 years as an administrator at GW, Webster said now is the time for her to play golf and go sailing.
“I’m going to do the things retired people do, which is anything they want to,” Webster said.
McElveen said he plans to play golf too, and he and his wife will travel to Europe.
Strong will return to where he started – Cornell University.
From 1977 to 1987, Strong worked at Cornell, first as director to the university’s student unions and later simultaneously as special assistant to the vice president for campus affairs and director of Willard Straight Hall.
After about 12 years with GW, Strong is returning to Cornell as assistant vice president for student and academic services. He will be responsible for housing, community development, dining services, summer conferences and implementation of a new residential program initiative, he said.
Strong said he cherishes his time at GW. He said he feels he has enhanced student life and student services here.
He said the GW memory most striking to him is the SASS strategic planning effort this year, which was an initiative to pay more attention to student needs and desires.
“That says it all for me,” Strong said.
He will be leaving behind a part of his career and his two daughters who are GW students. As an alumnus of GW, Strong said he looks forward to interacting with the University from a different perspective.
“GW is a very special place,” he said. “A lot happens here.”