Celebrating Employee Milestones
Here is the latest installment of the Up Close series, featuring the day-to-day work of the School and the people who do it.
26 Apr 2018   Christian Camerota

The year is 1977. The country is in the throes of Saturday Night Fever. Star Wars has just made its big screen debut. Jimmy Carter is in the White House. Gas is 62 cents per gallon. The average home in the US costs just under $50,000. Cellphones have only just been invented, and they are enormous.

Fast forward to 2018 and a lot has changed. We’re now on our tenth Star Wars film. Gas averages $2.78 per gallon, houses $190,000. Donald Trump is in the White House. Cellphones are much smaller, and an indispensable part of most people’s lives. But some things remain the same. For example, Kathy Venne and Paula Alexander started working at Harvard Business School in 1977, and they still do these 40 years later.

It has become a tradition at HBS to honor long-time employees. Previously, the University marked milestones with an annual celebration for faculty and staff celebrating 25 years of service. But in 2013, HBS Human Resources worked with a University-wide task force that replaced that event with a more comprehensive program. The current program acknowledges staff milestones every five years, allowing them to choose a gift at each interval. Beyond that, Executive Dean for Administration Angela Crispi and Chief Human Resources Officer Ellen Mahoney decided to complement that program at HBS with an event held each January for those celebrating 15 years of service or above (also in 5-year increments), as well as staff who retired in the prior year.


“It is one of our favorite events because of the bonhomie of interacting with our longer service colleagues, most of whom know each other well from having been part of the campus community together,” Mahoney said. “The stories they share are priceless, the memories are heartfelt, their affection for the School is infectious, and the laughter reminds you of what a special place this is because of its people.”

Earlier this year, the toast honored 59 staff and 14 retirees, achieving milestone years of service in 2017. Honorees included: Paula Alexander, Jackie Baugher, Ruby Blake, Mailu Brasil, Richard Bryden, Derek Chan, Theresa Condon, Sheila Connelly, Linda Cornell, Jean Cunningham, Brit Dewey, Andrew Elrick, Rebecca Emerick, Walter Friedman, David Frieze, Theresa Gaignard, David Gale, John Galvin, Tobey Gilmore, Karen Golden, Tino Goncalves, Ellen Harkavy, Patricia Haviland, Michael Hemment, Deborah Hooper, Maureen Houghton, Neida Jimenez, Chris Jones, Linda Kelly, Kenneth Kerr, Nora Kinne, Teresa Laffey, Luann Langan, Laura Linard, Erin Lawler, Jeffrey Lee, Christopher Linnane, Kathleen Lukowski, Timothy Mabbott, Kevin Maestre, Kate McHugh, Cheri Mehigan, Margaret Moreland, Glenn Morris, John O'Connor, Robin Passias, Ronald Peracchio, David Porter, Chris Ramsay, Rosalyn Reiser, Andrea Schulman, Aldo Sesia, Melissa Shaffer, Jonathan Sidney, Cindy Smith, Coral Sullivan, David Taylor, Kathy Venne, and Peter Walsh.

Alexander and Venne were two of the longest-tenured honorees, and we asked them to reflect on their time at HBS so far.

Paula Alexander Staff Assistant, Senior Faculty Center

In 1977, I signed up with a temporary agency to find a new job. The assignment was here at HBS in Executive Education. I was supposed to fill in for a couple of weeks… but that turned into a 40-year career! My husband and I had recently bought a home in Allston, which was so close to campus that I rode a bicycle or walked to work. When I received the permanent job offer at HBS, I was happy to accept it.

I worked in Executive Education for 10 years and then moved over to the Dean’s Office as an administrative assistant during Dean John McArthur’s tenure. I gained even greater knowledge of the School in my ten years in this job. It was the start of major reconstruction and infrastructure of Harvard building projects, which continues to this day. Being a lifelong resident of Allston, I observed the evolution of how good working relations between Harvard and the community transformed the landscape of the campus and the community for the better.

I also learned how much we could and would advance our work with the advent of computers. When I first started here in 1977, I used a typewriter, made copies with carbon paper, and used many bottles of “Wite-Out!” There was no email—we sent telexes and faxes. So, moving to computers was a big learning curve, but paid off in the end.

Today I work with retired senior faculty, many of whom are still very active. I help with their flight reservations, research endeavors, sorting of files and papers, and technology challenges. The faculty have been kind to me over the years, and I am truly fond of them.

Looking back, I am amazed at how many wonderful people I have known at HBS who have become my good friends. Everyone here contributes an important piece to making this place run successfully, from the staff of OSS and custodians to food service and case services. On a personal level, my late husband and I became best friends with some people from England and Mexico I met while I was a program coordinator for the International Senior Managers Program in Executive Education. I even learned how to play tennis here from the coaches of Harvard tennis, and I still play a couple of times of week.

As the years pass in a lifetime, I have learned it is not a smooth and straight road through life. There are many bumps. My managers, friends, and colleagues have helped me weather many storms; I’m thankful to have had such a wonderful experience.

Kathy Venne Executive Education Portfolio Director

I first considered working at HBS through my brother-in-law, who was on the faculty and teaching in the Executive Education Program. I thought it looked like an interesting area, and though there weren’t any positions available in the department, in November of 1977, I started as a faculty assistant to Professors Ken Andrews and Marty Marshall. Six months later a position opened up in the Program for Management Development (PMD,) and I moved over to Executive Education. I’ve been there ever since!

Today, as portfolio director, I am responsible for our Advanced Management Program (AMP) and our Young Presidents Organization (YPO) programs. I am involved in AMP admissions—speaking with prospective candidates and working with marketing and corporate relations to ensure we bring quality applicants to the program. When AMP is in session, I am very involved with my team on the day-to-day logistics and participant interaction. No two days are the same!

I have met some incredible executives from around the world during my time in Executive Education. During the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the AMP class we had on campus immediately felt they wanted to do something to help the victims. They organized an auction and raised more than $150,000 for One Fund Boston. I remember knowing the auction was going to be a big success when the first item, an autographed Tom Brady jersey, went for $5,000. The participant with the winning bid was from France and didn’t even know who Tom Brady was!

My belief in the impact that AMP has both professionally and personally on our participants has kept me here for so long. I have enjoyed working in such a stimulating intellectual environment with incredible faculty and colleagues. HBS has been a wonderful place to work, and I feel fortunate to have spent virtually my entire career here.


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