A marble-based pen holder sits atop the southwest corner of office manager Pat Siebrasse’s L-shaped desk inside the administrative suite of the School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences.
The pen is encircled by, of all things, a small Slinky. The attached plaque indicates that she received the ornament in honor of her 10th anniversary at NIU.
Siebrasse, who will retire this week, has owned that particular memento 40 years. Indeed, her retirement this week marks the end of a 50-year career for NIU’s longest-serving employee.
“I never thought I’d be here this long,” says Siebrasse, who smiles demurely when she hears the phrase “longest-serving” used to describe her. “I consider it an honor. It’s been a good job, and it’s one I’ve truly enjoyed.”
Mary Pritchard, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences and a former chair of FCNS, calls Siebrasse an “amazing woman.”
“Pat is a true professional in all ways and a role model for generations of support staff members at NIU. She has transitioned smoothly from manual typewriters, shorthand and ditto machines to computers and electronic communications,” Pritchard says.
“She taught me everything I know about establishing the schedule of classes, reading budget reports and planning for the future. She is a loyal employee who always approaches challenges on the job with a positive attitude.”
The story of Siebrasse’s professional life starts in her hometown of Belvidere.
After graduating from Belvidere High School, Siebrasse headed west and enrolled in courses at a California business college. She pined for the Midwest, though, and eventually returned to Illinois.
In July of 1962, after working a few other jobs nearby, she began her journey on the NIU campus. Leslie A. Holmes was president of the university then; Siebrasse arrived a few months before the opening of the student center that eventually would bear Holmes’ name.
The academic unit where she still works today was then known as the Department of Home Economics. Students often hosted tea parties and showed off handiworks they had sewn.
“We were on the second floor of Davis Hall,” she says. “We move here to Wirtz in ’64 when it opened. It was newly built. We were on the second floor.”
Other changes would come – the name would become the Department of Human and Family Resources before adopting its current moniker; faculty would come and go; the location would move to Gilbert Hall for some years before a return to the first floor of Wirtz – but Siebrasse would remain a constant.
Most of her duties now involve budgeting and personnel, including the paperwork required for hiring employees. She’s perfected her multitasking skills and acquired plenty of new talents over the last half-century.
“NIU has changed tremendously. We had manual typewriters, carbon paper, mimeographs, stencils,” she says. “Then the computer came in. Personally, I have to keep a piece of paper in front of me. I don’t trust a computer to keep it all.”
Her years in the job also have included faithful and active service to the International Association of Administrative Professionals, not only locally as president of the Kishwaukee Chapter but also regionally and nationally.
Sponsored by the Administrative Professionals Advisory Council of NIU, the award will be given each April to a deserving and committed administrative professional at the annual Administrative Professionals Day Breakfast.
Beyond this legacy, Siebrasse has simple advice for her successors.
“Patience,” she says. “Accept all people. Understand different cultures and the way they do things. Get along with all people.”
Without a doubt, confirms Linda Derscheid, acting FCNS chair, Siebrasse is “even-keeled” and “always calm.”
“We’re going to sorely miss her. She’s a jewel,” Derscheid says. “I call her the quintessential employee. She’s here early, she stays late when she needs to and she’s just been an institution for us. She’s been the sense of stability anytime we had any questions: ‘How do we do this? Who do we contact? Who knows something about this?’ She’s just invaluable.”
“Pat is the consummate professional,” adds Laura Smart, the recently retired former chair of FCNS.
“Her ability to learn new aspects of her job (such as MyNIU) amazed me. She always maintained complete confidentiality, and she always kept her temper. She always was at her desk when I got into work, even if I was there well before 8 a.m., and she almost always stayed late. She was a complete joy to work with.”
Siebrasse plans to travel soon to Texas, where one of her four children lives, for a two-week stay.
Past that vacation, however, the agenda is less concrete. The only given is that she looks forward to spending time with her other three children, her nine grandchildren and her nine great-grandchildren, all of whom live nearby.
“I’m a morning person. I’m used to getting up early,” she says. “I will probably still get up early, go for coffee and see what happens the rest of the day.”