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Inside Story: 40 Years of MemoriesReba Amerson, administrative assistant, Department of English
One of the longest-serving staff members in the College, Reba Amerson came to IU straight from Bloomington High School in 1956 and, except for a three-year break when she first married, she has been here ever since. For the last 27 years, she has anchored the English department's administrative office, serving under six department chairs. In 1979, she won the campus's first Staff Merit Award. She plans to retire this summer to spend more time with her family, which includes triplet grandchildren born last November. English department Chair Kenneth Johnston says, "Reba has been in the English department longer than anybody. We simply won't know what to say, without these 'solutions' to all our problems: 'See Reba about that,' 'Reba will take care of that,' 'Reba knows how to do it.' We'll miss her immensely."
I've been at IU 40 years, and I've been in the English department since the summer of 1972. Before that, I worked in the Comparative Literature Program, the Department of History, and the registrar's office.
When I first started here, I typed all the correspondence on a manual typewriter with lots of carbons. I remember when I first experienced an electric typewriter. I was horrified! I also used to do shorthand. That's not even heard of anymore. I transcribed letters, but I never considered myself very good at it. Somehow I faked my way through. Computers were a real big step for me, and I still don't feel I know all that I need to.
In the beginning, I worked more directly with the faculty. Now I seem to do more financial work and have less personal contact with the faculty. Everything is done by computer now, and most of the faculty write their own correspondence. I miss that part of my job.
I do work closely with the chair on course scheduling. I do the budgeting, so in recent years my job has changed quite a bit, because I oversee all the faculty research accounts. I also supervise the support staff, and I do staff and faculty payroll.
What's been a big help to me is all the administrative assistants in the various departments in Ballantine Hall. If we have any problems, we run next door or up the next flight of steps. We all try to help each other out, especially in learning computer programs. We are very close-knit in Ballantine. I really treasure that.
It's hard to imagine how things have changed on and around campus since I've been here. My first job was in Bryan Hall. There never seemed to be a parking problem - most students did not have cars on campus. I recall that at lunchtime some of us would drive downtown to Bender's Cafe, and then, of course, there were the drive-in restaurants scattered around. My favorites were Fergie's and the Circle Drive-in. When I worked in the history department, most of the secretaries brown-bagged it and met in the lounge for lunch, some of us playing cards and some working on various crafts. That was a fun time, and there was a closeness among the staff. These days, I'm lucky to get away for a lunch break. For sure, it's not wise to move your car during lunchtime!
I've had little contact with students since I've been in the English department, although I did in history and comparative literature. When I first came to English, I missed that. I used to try to hand out all the AI paychecks, mainly so I could get to know all the students, but there were 130 of them. Finally I gave up on that. You can't do everything.