With a combined 70-plus years of service to the university, Bernice Sieber and Sharon Kelly will retire on Jan. 5.
A retirement reception for the two Natural Resources employees is 3 to 4 p.m. Jan. 5 in the Maps and More store in Hardin Hall. The reception is free and open to the public.
“Bernice and Sharon represent what is great about the staff at UNL,” said John Carroll, professor and SNR director. “It is always bittersweet when someone retires, but I cannot think of two people who deserve a nice break after so many years of hard work.”
Sieber, office associate, was hired by the former forestry department in 1975. She later joined the Conservation and Survey Division in the Center for Remote Sensing, which became the Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies. In 2008, she moved to Natural Resources’ operations staff.
Lisa Greif, sales office associate, has worked next to Sieber at the Hardin Hall front desk for only a year, but quickly learned how important she is to the school.
“Bernice’s personality and heart seem so essential to Hardin Hall that I have a hard time imagining this place without her,” Greif said. “She is SNR’s go-to person for every question, problem and request imaginable. Plus, she’s a blast to work with and makes me laugh every day. She will be truly missed.”
Kelly, administrative office associate, began her university career in 1983 in what was the agricultural meteorology department.
Don Wilhite, climatologist and professor, said Kelly immediately became an integral part of the team.
“Sharon quickly became a major asset in the success of this small but very productive unit,” Wilhite said. “She has been one of the most loyal and professional employees that I have ever worked with during my years at UNL.”
In 1997, the department merged with other units to create what would become UNL’s School of Natural Resources. Kelly joined the school’s staff and has provided support to multiple directors ever since.
“When I became SNR director in 2007, it was with a full appreciation of Sharon’s skills, integrity and personal commitment to accomplish any task with precision and on time,” Wilhite said. “In fact, without Sharon and Christine (Steggs) in place to assist me in the daunting task of providing leadership for this large and diverse group of faculty and staff, I would not have been willing to undertake this assignment.”
Steggs, assistant to the director, has worked with Kelly since 1998 and echoes Wilhite’s sentiment.
“Sharon’s attention to details is stellar,” Steggs said. “Even when there is a lot of pressure for the director, administrative staff or faculty, she is calm, cool and collected. She has been a joy to work with in many ways.”
In addition to administrative and departmental changes, both women have seen the world change quite a bit throughout the years.
“I remember interviewing with my future supervisor who was asking me questions, all the while smoking a very stinky cigarette, which was quite common back then,” Sieber said. “About halfway through, the smoke must have affected me and I started coughing for what seemed like forever. In between running to the water fountain and my blurry red eyes, I was very surprised that I got the job.”
Kelly’s job hunting experience is another testament to the evolution of the 20th century workplace.
“I really wanted and needed the job, but had no experience with word processing or typing manuscripts and proposals,” Kelly said. “My experience with a computer had been keeping an accurate accounting of stock items at Westinghouse Electric Supply, and it seemed that most employers advertising wanted IBM experience.”
However, the department was willing to train Kelly on its CPT, a now-defunct word processing machine.
“Learning the CPT and how to type complicated equations in multiple manuscripts and proposals – and following their different formats – was challenging at first, but I actually came to enjoy doing equations and making them look good,” Kelly said. “Thank goodness for patient faculty.”
When recalling particularly fond memories, Sieber recounts a rather electrifying encounter with the legendary Bob Devaney.
“I was serving as chair of the university-wide Parking Advisory Committee, and at that time junior varsity football was being played on Friday afternoons in the stadium,” Sieber said.
Many City Campus employees would leave for lunch, come back to their parking lots and find visitors parked in their spaces.
“This caused quite a bit of tension, so I thought a meeting with Bob, who was the athletic director at the time, was in order,” Sieber said.
Devaney’s office was like “Big Red heaven,” Sieber said. Everything was red – including the chairs and shag carpeting.
“We concluded the meeting with an ‘electrifying’ hand shake, which happened when I stood up and generated a large static electrical charge from the carpet,” Sieber said. “Thank goodness, he found it funny.”
It’s these types of memories that Sieber and Kelly are sure to hold dear as they begin new chapters in their lives.
For Sieber, that chapter includes life as a newlywed.
“I knew it was time to retire when I decided to get married and move to Geneva,” Sieber said. “I am looking forward to spending time with my husband traveling, raising a garden, learning to hunt and fish, and best of all not having to get up in the morning to go to work.”
For Kelly, retirement is simply the next step.
“The university has been like a second family,” she said. “But it is just time.”