2019 McKeen Award
October 4th, 2019
When women started to work in offices, most of them performed only administrative tasks, usually for male bosses. Historically, “secretary” has been synonymous with “woman”. Also historically, few have been the (male) bosses who have recognized the value of the work that these women have done – work that may seem trivial but that in reality is fundamental for the efficient running of any office of institution. From lack of recognition to low pay to, in some cases, overt sexual harassment or assault (a la Mad Men), we are all familiar with what office work has meant for many women.
Inequity is also, historically, as aspect of the staff experience at PA, albeit in different ways. While it is true that, in a residential school, the job expectations for faculty and staff are fundamentally different, leading to varied levels of input in decision-making, it is also the case that, without the staff, the institution would not be able to exist.
For many years, the McKeen Award has honored a variety of amazing faculty members, giants of the past efforts towards gender equity and inclusion at Andover. Today, the Brace Center hopes to extend these efforts into uncharted territory by recognizing three fantastic women without whose work and dedications the Center would not be able to function. After all, as bona fide feminists, we, and they, know all too well what invisible labor is and what it feels like. In celebrating Sharon’s, Julie’s, and JoAnne’s legacy, we hope to strengthen the ties between the collective journey towards a gender equitable community and world.
After a long career in human resources management, Sharon was hired by inaugural director Diane Moore in 1996 to become the first administrative assistant for the newly created Brace Center for Gender Studies. Inspired by Diane’s vision and integrity, Sharon eagerly accepted the job, while also continuing to work for Fidelity Investments as an employee benefits consultant.
Sharon helped get the two Brace Center spaces up and running in the newly rededicated Abbot Hall; got historic Abbot Academy portraits copied; ordered books and subscriptions to gender publications; set up a lending library; processed invoices; helped start the Student Fellow and Faculty Fellow presentation series; arranged for publicity, and video-taped all presentations; helped launch the Student Proctor program; and arranged for visiting speakers about gender. In other words, some of the physical spaces and longstanding programs of the Brace Center exist because of Sharon’s hard work and dedication.
After three years, Sharon changed jobs to become an editor in PA’s Office of Communications but continues to fill in as needed at the Brace Center. She retired from PA after fifteen years and is still a Brace fan: To this day, she attends most Brace Student Fellow presentations and other events.
Julie came to Andover in 2004, and her first campus “home” was at te Brace Center for Gender studies. Taking on all the administrative tasks of the Center, she supported then co-directors Kathy Dalton and Tony Rotundo, as well as the other adults in the Brace Executive Board.
Not even some encounters with some of our quirky campus personalities could faze Julie as she rapidly learned the ins and outs of our community. Event thought she worked only during the evenings, she quickly because known to many around campus for her cheery persona, calm efficiency, and impeccable professionalism. Students, in particular the Brace Center Student Proctors, thrived under Julie’s warm and nurturing tutelage. Julie fondly recalls her favorite role as Brace’s administrative assistant: “to provide a comfortable and safe space for students where they could always be their true feminist selves.”
In 2009, Julie moved from the Brace Center to the math department and then to the Academic Skills Center before landing in her current position at the Dean of Studies office. From 2015-2017, she served as the first staff representative to the newly constituted Brace Center Advisory Board.
JoAnne arrived at Andover in 2001 as the English department administrative assistant. In 2006, she moved to the IRT before eventually coming back to Bullfinch Hall in 2013. Her office is a quasi-mandatory stopping point for English faculty on the way to and from classes, and the casual banter and fun exchanges that happen there provide a daily dose of needed good cheer to everyone.
In 2015, under co-directors Tasha Hawthorne and Flavia Vidal, JoAnne added the administrative duties of the Brace Center to her weekly schedule. She quickly developed a special fondness for the Brace . enter spaces in Abbot Hall; among her many tasks, she both created and manages the system of reservations for these spaces in ways that honor our feminist spirit and good community citizenship.
The Brace Center is very busy these days, with a lot of programs, events and initiatives occurring on a weekly basis. JoAnne menages all the logistical details for them and, in addition, covers the evening study hours at the Center twice a week. This is her favorite part of the job: “to get to know the students, who are all so nice; to have conversation with them and observe first-hand how much they enjoy being in the space.”