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Updated 10:00 AM October 13, 2003



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Staff spotlight: Witness to five decades of change

When Nancy Bates, interim key administrator for the Department of Physics, stepped foot on campus in 1953, U-M was a vastly different place than we know today.

"When I came (to U-M), there were 13,900 students, curfews in the dorms and women couldn't go in the front door of the Union," Bates says. "There was an immense change in life. There was an East Coast influence—a more elite atmosphere—but diversity has changed that, allowing a much greater mix of students."

Lois Hoffman, professor emeritus of psychology; Nancy Bates; Barb Strane of the Institute for Social Research; and Jeannette East of LSA Undergraduate Education (with back to camera) celebrate Bates' 50 years at U-M during a reception in her honor. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

After working in departments as various as psychology, Asian languages, Judaic Studies, economics and physics, Bates celebrated her 50th anniversary at U-M last week with a reception in her honor, two weeks after her 70th birthday celebration. In 50 years at U-M, Bates has seen more events than most even know occurred and continues to work here because "this really is my life."

Bates came to Ann Arbor from Hillsdale College in 1953 to live with her husband, a graduate student in zoology. She worked as an administrative secretary at the Fresh Air Camp, a multidisciplinary training unit for emotionally disturbed boys run by the Institute for Human Adjustment.

After working for the camp, Bates moved to the Department of Psychology where she worked as an administrative assistant in clinical psychology for 10 years and as the key administrator for the department for more than 20 years. She saw the repercussions of the Haven Hall and economics building fires, dealt with a recession in the early 1980s, and oversaw the departmental move to East Hall in 1995. The move lasted more than three years and included five stories worth of information and specialized equipment brought in from buildings all over campus.

After 48 years at the University, Bates was about to call it quits in 2001 when she talked to a friend in LSA Outreach Services.

"I had worked for almost 48 years, and I couldn't just quit cold turkey. So I called the human resources director asking about the availability of part-time positions," Bates says. "I went directly from retirement to non-retirement."

This is where her job began to cover new ground. First she worked in Student Academic Affairs. She then began her departmental work as the interim key administrator, in chemistry and physics, then Near Eastern Studies, Germanic Languages and Literatures, Judaic Studies, economics, and Asian Languages and Cultures, working approximately 10 weeks in each department.

"The most difficult part was getting accustomed to all the new names. It always takes the first few weeks to get my ear attuned to it," Bates says. "I got to know where certain departments fit into the scheme of things. I've gotten to know people and more about the University than I ever knew before."

Following the jump between departments, Bates worked in the LSA Facilities Office, assisting with the move of the dean's office to Haven Hall and the Dana Building. She has become so skilled at how to move departments from one end of campus to the other that she currently is working on a handbook that will provide guidance for relocation of departments.

Bates holds a part-time key administrator position in physics. She says that Outreach Services has allowed her to slow down her week and make more time for other activities, such as caring for her 12-year-old Welsh Corgi and five Labradors. She also works on her award-winning flower beds in her spare time and recently built a new house on 20 acres in Waterloo Township, where she lives with her daughter Allison, a U-M alumna and assistant prosecutor in Jackson County.

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