By Abbe Kaplan
Some people have a hard time keeping track of their cell phone and laptop at the same time. Try being Connie Lee, 68, of Newark, Ohio, who—until her retirement last Friday, Oct. 31 —juggled five phones and eight monitors for eight hours a day, five days a week.
If you have ever called Denison security, driven a university-owned car or van, or picked up the keys for a building, chances are, you have interacted with Lee. Chances are also good that you remember the encounter fondly, thanks to her ever-present smile, infectious laugh, and genuine greetings.
“Connie was wonderful to work with,” said Steve Gauger, director of risk management and environmental health and safety at Denison. “I’ve never met someone who is so happy all the time.”
It really is rare to see Lee without a smile on her face, even on busy Friday nights as she sits enclosed in her glass cubicle, answering call after call, switching skillfully from one to another.
Beepbeep, beepbeep, beepbeep. This is the soundtrack to an eventful shift.
In a single five-minute period, Lee reassures a distressed student with a broken down vehicle that help is on the way, communicates with security officers who are at the senior apartments conducting checks for registered parties, and dispatches a security officer to investigate a reported fire alarm in Shepardson Hall. And she answers every call with a friendly and calming tone of voice.
“Connie is like a motherly figure to everyone who enters P1 [the campus security office],” said Grace Pelak ‘15, a psychology major from Washington, D.C. “She is very outgoing and clearly loves talking to people; she always says ‘hi’ to me and asks me how my day is going when I come to pick up the keys for the Denison Community Association car I drive to my volunteering site.”
Lee emphasized that the reason she could be so upbeat and friendly when she came to work each day is that she truly liked what she did. “I love that everyone works together and is so dedicated, I can’t stress that enough; the people who work here, the students, and the community are the best. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”
Lee explained the importance of her job: she and the other operators are “often the first point of contact for people who need help.” She keeps a watchful eye on the weather, in case a severe condition calls for a campus-wide alert to be sent out, on the parking garage gate, to become aware of who is entering Denison property and ensure our safety, and on the security cameras positioned all over campus.
She has seen countless students, faculty members, and families come and go in her 16 years as one of Denison’s switchboard operator/dispatchers. She has also witnessed technology and policies change and improve. “I learned something new everyday, or how to do something better,” Lee said, “We have updated our technology a lot, and there is definitely more to come.”
Post retirement, Lee plans to volunteer with organizations such as the Salvation Army, spend time with her family in Indiana including her 9-month-old granddaughter, and simply relax and appreciate the peace and quiet from the absence of chiming phones and chirping radios.