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History manager a `dedicated, intelligent problem-solver’

When Jane Lindley went to work for the University in the 1960s with three young children at home, she said she raised a lot of eyebrows.

But with the help of a nanny who lived nearby, Lindley not only succeeded in raising a family, she also helped her husband manage their dairy farm and maintain a career that spans three decades.

“I discovered early on that I love to work,” Lindley said. “But at the time, most women with families didn’t work, and a lot of my neighbors looked at me like I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Lindley, university manager for the history department, is one of four outstanding employees honored recently with the C. Knox Massey Award for Distinguished Service.

“Successive chairs of the department have said that her firm, skilled hand at the helm worked a sea change for the better in the department’s administrative affairs,” the citation read. “From then `til now, both those she supervises and those who direct her have seen her as an admirably efficient, wholly trustworthy friend and colleague.”

At least two history department chairs have written that they would have refused to head the department without assurance that she would stay to help, the citation said. And one chair told a national meeting of historians that he “would trade 12 faculty positions to keep her.”

“She’s a very dedicated person–very intelligent, very quick,” said Richard A. Soloway, Eugen Merzbacher professor and department chair. “It’s astonishing what she can juggle. She’s basically a problem solver who makes my job much easier.”

Lindley’s duties include managing the department’s finances, purchasing large items for the department and supervising its staff of five. Until this past year, she also handled all the department’s academic scheduling.

Although she has been part of the history department since 1973, Lindley has had a varied University background.

In 1960, she went to work as a secretary in the UNC system’s General Administration, then known as the Consolidated Office. About 18 months later, she left to have her first child.

“When he was eight months old, they called me and offered me a job working for the vice president,” Lindley recalled.

She returned to work and about a year later, she left again and stayed home for three years, caring for her three children.

Lindley once again returned to the University–this time as an assistant to the secretary of the faculty. Eventually she was lured to the history department when Faculty Chair George Taylor was named chairman of the department.

“So I came over then, and it just stuck,” Lindley said. “I knew a lot about the workings of the University and a lot about the faculty. I had always thought I’d like working at the department level–that’s where all the action is.”

Rosalie Radcliffe, a department secretary who has worked with Lindley for 21 years, described her easygoing style.

“She hires good people and expects them to do their jobs,” Radcliffe said. “I think her Quaker background helps her deal with everyday problems. She doesn’t upset easily–she takes things in stride.”

Linda Stephenson, an administrative assistant in the department, also has known Lindley for about two decades.

“She’s a super person,” Stephenson said. “She’s easy to talk to, very capable, pleasant and has good sense of humor. If she doesn’t know something, she’s eager to find out and teach us all about it.”

One project Lindley spearheaded was what the award citation described as “championing of technological literacy in a department sagging without it.” “Because of her efforts,” Soloway said, “this department became a model of how a unit that was largely computer illiterate could be transformed to make use of the most up-to-date technology.”

During the years, Lindley has managed the daily operations of the history department for five chairmen and two interim chairmen.

“I like working with the people here–the variety,” she said. “I’ve never ever dreaded coming to work.”

Lindley does plan to retire around the end of next year–much to Soloway’s disappointment.

“We don’t want to talk about that,” he said with a laugh.

Outside of work, Lindley keeps the books for the 200-cattle dairy farm she and her husband, Joe, operate in Alamance County. She also belongs to a local genealogy group and enjoys traveling and reading. In addition to their three grown children, the couple has four grand children.

Lindley said she didn’t know what retirement had in store for her.

“Just what it’s going to feel like to retire, I don’t know,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll be busy. I have a lot of projects to work on, including getting the farm entirely computerized.”

Originally published by University Gazette: June 11,1997

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