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Business Officer Magazine
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Back Story

Profiles of individuals in roles that support the work of the chief business officer—and who represent the majority of the Business Officer reading audience.

By Margo Vanover Porter

Annette J. Sardelli and Susan Wilson
Annette J. Sardelli (left)

Program Management Specialist,
Facilities Management
University of Maryland, College Park
51 years in higher education

Susan Wilson
Retired Program Management Specialist,
Facilities Managment
University of Maryland, College Park
30 years in higher education

At 72, she isn't quite ready to retire.

"I have to make sure I have something to do," says Annette J. Sardelli, program management specialist, facilities management, University of Maryland in College Park. "I don't want to sit around the house watching TV or running in malls all day."

Referred by an employment agency for an interview in 1961, Sardelli was offered a job on the spot in what was then the University of Maryland's physical plant. She was 22 years old. Starting out as a timekeeper, she moved to a secretarial position and then joined the payroll department, where she's been for more than four decades.

"For me, this has been an incredible journey," she says. "This place has a special spot in my heart."

When she's not working, you might find her doing a do-si-do. Sardelli square dances one night a week, an activity she adopted after she quit figure skating. "Back in the '80s, I took up skating," she explains. "I belonged to the Figure Skating Club of Maryland, which was located at an ice rink not far from campus. I used to skate on my lunch hour and take lessons. I did that for about six years, learning how to dance skate doing the waltz and tango."

She hasn't been back on the ice for at least five or six years. "I'm just afraid I might break a bone," she says. "That would be the end of me." It could also cut into her accumulated sick leave, which totals 22 months...and counting.

Sardelli admits that she thinks about retiring. "I do a crazy thing. About every four months, I write for estimates just to see what my retirement will be." That figure, she says, keeps growing.

During her 51 years, she's seen many changes. She remembers when boxcars backed up to loading docks with coal to heat university buildings. "When I started here, we had 295 people. Now we have 800-plus employees. When I first came here, our payroll was on printed journals that had all of the employees' names. Before computers, we had to do our own calculations and write them down on a paper that went through four copies. If you made a mistake, you went through four copies to correct it. Now, it's all automated."

The composition of her department has also fluctuated. Several areas that were once part of the physical plant department—such as the police force, golf course, telephone operators, post office, and lock shop—have been assigned elsewhere. "The design and construction department left and came back," she explains. "That's when the department's name changed to facilities management."

With her long tenure, she's seen many employees come and go—including two family members. Her son, David, worked in the post office in the summers while attending American University on a baseball scholarship. Her daughter, Susan Wilson, retired in 2006 after 30 years in the university's work control office, which manages all the service calls, maintenance, and construction requests for the campus. Susan still works from home part time doing timekeeping for the office.

"My job was 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, in all kinds of weather," Wilson says. "I had to come in no matter whether we had two inches or six feet of snow. We had to work weekends and holidays because work control stayed open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I worked Christmas, New Year's, and the Fourth of July."

While employed in two separate areas of the same department, both mother and daughter enjoyed their close proximity. "The best part was, I got to see her every day," Sardelli says. "I was very sad when she retired. I would go down near her desk, and she wasn't there. It took time for me to get used to her not
being around."

Working only a hallway away, Sardelli often brought her daughter breakfast, lunch, or a cup of coffee. "My mom and I have a good relationship," Wilson says. "I keep asking her, 'When are you going to retire?'"

Her response: "What do I want to retire for? I love my job."

MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Virginia, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.