I want each one of you to know that it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you. I have admired your expertise, appreciated your generous assistance, been inspired by your dedication, and enjoyed the camaraderie of our Team.
People - including my husband and children - have often asked me why I am still working late into my retirement years, and I want to share a little story with you which might explain that.
I was born in 1946, when wounded, weary nations were still marching up to tables to sign the Peace Treaties of WWII. The women who had built airplanes and tanks, produced top secret maps for our war rooms, and helped to crack enemy codes were going back home to their children. And the military men who had survived were returning to the workforce to take their jobs back - including my father, who had spent 18 months in a NAZI camp after his plane was shot down over Germany. Women had been a necessary, but temporary, war-time filler in the workplace. Only one woman in my family continued to work; most of the women in my community never pursued a higher education, and many never even drove a car.
By the time I was in high school, the idyllic post-war years had erupted into chaos. Kennedy and Khrushchev were squaring off like nuclear gun slingers while grim citizens built bomb shelters in their basements and back yards. Civil Rights activists were marching. Vietnam War protesters were burning flags. Hippies were embracing free love and LSD. Women were burning bras. Girls were suddenly attending college in droves - and not to major in Home Ec. Even so, it was understood that a young, educated woman would stop working as soon as her first child was born, and would only work again if her husband died. And the trio of jobs considered acceptable for nice Catholic girls were nursing, teaching and becoming a nun.
When Spalding University's Psychology department offered me my first paying job, working with disadvantaged children in a Neighborhood House on Market Street (Louisville's notorious red-light district), my horrified parents threatened to wait outside the school building and drag me into their car to prevent me from holding that job. My long, difficult campaign to maintain the right to work in the fields of my choice continued for years, and created rifts in my family that never healed. I have always considered it a right worth fighting for to be able to earn my living, and a gift to be able to earn it doing the things I loved.
Discomfort with women in the workplace was still widespread. At one job interview, in a LAW OFFICE, after answering the usual questions about my marital status (single) and my faith (Catholic), I was refused the job with the explanation that I would just be spending the rest of my life having babies and they had no interest in paying me for that. A friend of mine, who was pleasantly plump, hid her pregnancy from our employer until the baby was born, because they would have dismissed her immediately if they had known, and she needed the job.
Each time we transferred to follow my husband's career, I started over - working as a display designer, a newspaper reporter, a retail manager and interior designer, an employment counselor, a computer operator, a system owner and corporate trainer, a computer programmer, a graphic designer, a secretary for the Methodist Church, a member of a day treatment team in a mental health facility, and in between, I helped install quarry tile in a Chrysler plant. Once, to pay a medical bill, I temporarily added a second shift - tossing the pepperoni onto the pizza in a pizza plant.
Juggling marriage, children and work has often been challenging for me, as I am sure it has been for all of you, both men and women. But the struggle to be a part of the workforce has always paled beside the excitement of being able to participate in the fascinating, powerful changes which that workforce has created and ushered into our world.
Now, I pass the banner on to you. I hope your chance to be a part of it all will bring you as much joy as it has brought me.