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Patience and generosity the legacy of Caulberg’s tenure

Sandra Caulberg isn’t going to tell you why she’s so good at her job.

She’ll be perfectly happy to tell you about her job, or about the University, or about her family. She’ll be happy to tell you about the many policies and procedures she must not only follow, but regularly explain to others. She’ll even be happy to tell you about the time she once met Andy Griffith in South Building.

But she’s far too humble of a person to tell you why she’s so good at her job.

That’s OK, though, because those who work with her in the Office of the University Counsel and who nominated her for the C. Knox Massey Award will do that for her.

They’ll sing her praises with regard to her ability to make time for anyone who needs a helping hand.

“She is never too busy to answer the inevitable question, `Why do we do it this way?’ and is willing to assist in changing policies or practices that have become outdated or to work with campus members to find answers to apparently unanswerable questions,” wrote Associate University Counsel Joanna Carey Smith.

They’ll sing her praises with regard to her patience and welcoming nature.

“Without Ms. Caulberg’s generosity of time and spirit, I literally would have been unable to function,” said B. Glenn George, who moved from the law school faculty in October 2003 to fill the position of general counsel on an interim basis.

“All of the office practices and procedures needed to be explained to me, and Ms. Caulberg patiently and graciously guided me at every turn.”

And they’ll sing her praises with regard to her care for those with whom she works.

“With all she has to do, she still finds time to give support and encouragement to colleagues,” wrote Associate University Counsel Mary Sechriest. “I feel at times as if she’s my own personal cheerleader.”

‘A role model’

Caulberg, an administrative officer in the Office of University Counsel, never expected to find herself in Chapel Hill when her previous employer, Burlington Hosiery, closed down in 1974. The commute from Burlington was a lengthy one, but there were no jobs available closer to her home.

So she came to Carolina, and she hasn’t ever left.

“I fell in love with the place,” she said. “I never dreamed I’d be here for 30 years.”

She has watched the growth and evolution of the University through the years, and the growth and evolution of her job and her responsibilities right along with it.

She now assists in the management of the Office of University Counsel, helping handle grievances that involve faculty, staff and students. The legal issues involved include civil rights, liability and misuse of state property.

She also coordinates the University’s External Professional Activities for Pay and often serves as the first point of contact for public records requests related to the program.

“The biggest change is the volume of work, the variety of issues we’ve added on our agenda,” she said.

And while those issues could have overwhelmed Caulberg, she instead has become the safari guide of the Office of General Counsel, steering colleagues and visitors alike through a jungle of University procedure and policy.

“Sandra’s approach to her work, her dedication and her attention to detail make her a role model,” wrote Associate Vice Chancellor Patricia Crawford. “During Sandra’s long period of employment with the University, she has seen many changes, and Sandra has mastered these quietly, efficiently and effectively.”

Her contribution to Carolina doesn’t end with her official duties, however.

She also serves as an unofficial one-woman welcoming committee for every new employee in her office, answering endless questions at all hours of the day.

“You have to have a lot of patience,” she said. “You have to have an ability to listen to people and be willing to help.”

Those who have benefited most from her assistance, however, would say that she understates her importance to her office.

“Sandra patiently oriented me to the campus and, in doing so, demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the workings of this very complex institution,” wrote General Counsel Leslie Chambers Strohm. “Without her support, I, and many others who rely on Sandra’s expertise and knowledge, would be lost.”

Family and new friends

As often as she has guided colleagues and visitors through the inner workings of University procedure, one fond memory from her years at Carolina came when she was on the receiving end of a different type of tour.

One of her daughters, who now works at the School of Law, attended the University herself.

That meant Caulberg had the opportunity to see her employer from an entirely different perspective — that of the parent of a prospective student.

“It was neat,” she said. “I was seeing people I knew, and they were saying, `What are you doing?'”

Caulberg’s other daughter did not attend the University, but she remained close to home. She currently works for AG Edwards Financial in Greensboro.

Aside from the opportunity to work on the same campus at which one of her daughters attended school, Caulberg said, other memorable moments have come through her brushes with celebrity.

The Office of University Counsel used to be located in South Building, and the nature of that location dictated that she would often see notable visitors to campus when they dropped by to see the chancellor.

Andy Griffith was one such visitor the year he received an honorary degree from the University. Caulberg also recalls meetings with Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as memorable moments during her tenure at the University.

She met Clinton during the University’s Bicentennial Observance, as she had the honor of representing her department in the ceremonial procession.

Into retired life

Unfortunately for the Office of University Counsel, Caulberg has reached the point in her career at which she will cut back on her workload and time in the office.

She officially retired in November, but she still works at the University part time.

Her increased time off, though, has allowed her to spend more time pursuing the other joys in her life — gardening, reading, sewing and crafts.

She also looks forward to a little relaxation on the sands of North Carolina’s coast.

“I love the beach,” she said. “I would move there if I could.”

But even as she begins gradually to separate herself from the campus she has called home for 30 years, she will take with her memories and experiences she will cherish for the rest of her life.

“The greatest thing that I treasure would be the people I’ve met and worked with and what I’ve learned from them,” she said.

Originally published by University Gazette: Dec. 15,2004

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