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interviewed by Danielle E. Riley.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (92 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 expanded summary (digital, PDF file)
USF 50th (2006) anniversary oral history project
Interview conducted June 21, 2004.
Lori Ruse-Dietrich, retired assistant to the University of South Florida President, discusses her long career at USF that included positions in the Library, the College of Arts and Letters, and ultimately in the President's Office. She talks about the nature of working with each of the different USF presidents and how the University has developed through the years.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
University of South Florida.
Riley, Danielle E.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL AUDIO AND EXPANDED SUMMARY
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 200 8 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. T his oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.
1 USF Florida Studies Center Oral History Program USF 50 th History Anniversary Project Narrator: Lori Ruse Dietrich Interviewer: Danielle Riley Current Position: Retired Location of Interview: Tampa Date of Interview: June 21 2004 Campus Library Editor: Mary E. Yeary Abstractor: Daniel Bertwell Edit Date: Nov. 19, 2004 Abstract Completed: Nov. 17, 2004 Final Editor: Jared G. Toney TOPICS OF DISCUSSION Educational Background Ms. Ruse Dietrich grew up in Ormond Beach Florida. She went to the University of Florida for two years after graduating from high school. She received an associate's degree from UF and then got married in 1961. Her husband received a job in Tampa and Ms. Ruse D ietrich came to USF and worked in the library. USF is the only place for which she has ever worked. She worked at the library for four and a half years, stayed home with her two children, and then came back to USF in 1976. She completed her degree with tuition waivers and graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in British Literature. The first time she heard of USF Ms. Ruse Dietrich moved to Tampa before she had heard of USF. She saw an ad for the library job in the paper, applied, and was hired. P ersonnel did not take a typing test at the time, and she was later administered a typing test which was difficult for her to pass. Community around USF She worked in the old library, now the Student Services Building. The University Center the Administra tion Building, and possibly two other buildings were on campus at that time. The area was "very barren and a lot of sand." Fowler Avenue and 56 th Street were being built, so there was "nothing much out here." She and her husband lived in Lutz. Tea wi th President John Allen On one of her first days at the library, all of the staff at the library was invited to tea at USF President John Allen's house. Allen's wife Grace invited them out. This is one of her first memories. They went to the house in Ol d Carrollwood and all the women she worked with went there. Working in the Library Ms. Ruse Dietrich was a cataloging typist in the library. She worked for Elliot Hardaway, who was the first director of the library. Eventually she became head catalogi ng typist, but had to resign because of her pregnancy. At the time, the library was very small. They had to type each card for the catalog. In the basement of the library
2 they had a large typewriter you could feed information into. It was an early versi on of the electric typewriter. Social environment at work There was a "very small family feeling" at the library. They would go up to the snack bar at the top of the library. This was one of the only snack bars on campus so many employees would meet there. They'd sometimes have birthday parties at the snack bar. It was a tightly knit community and a "nice, casual atmosphere." They played volleyball together and spent time with one another. Working with Russell Cooper Ms. Ruse Dietrich took ten ye ars off from school. During this time, she did have a connection to the school. Russell Cooper, one of the original deans, was doing work on a book on USF's history. She did research for him. He discovered that he had cancer and couldn't finish the boo k. Later, Dean David Smith in Arts and Letters was looking for "more mature" women for the job sharing program so Ms. Ruse Dietrich and Sharon Smith both job shared. One worked in the mornings and the other in the afternoons. Ms. Smith is still workin g. They job shared for a while, then Ms. Smith went full time and Ms Ruse Dietrich went time. She later divorced and went full time in Arts and Letters. She worked there until 1984. Working in College of Arts and Letters During this time they got the ir first computer. Sharon Smith was good with the computer, but no one could use the computer well. They also had someone to type manuscripts for faculty. This was a different job than the library because she didn't see students in the library. This wa s not the case with Arts and Letters; she got to interact with students. There were fewer students around when she later moved to administration. Ms. Ruse Dietrich worked as secretary to the dean for a while, who at the time was Jim Strange. He was an i nteresting man to work with; he had a natural curiosity for the world. They also started playing softball and the dean's office challenged the department of communications to play. They sometimes had wine receptions. Move to the president's office and John Lott Brown In 1984, Ms. Ruse Dietrich moved to the president's office. John Lott Brown was halfway through his tenure as president at the time. It was a "small operation" with Brown, one special assistant, one faculty assistant, a receptionist, a g eneral secretary and a secretary that worked on the president's calendar. Ms. Ruse Dietrich started as a general secretary and after a year moved to the calendar secretary position. Brown was "very competitive," and during his ten years many great prog rams were added to the school and the university grew precipitously. She really learned a lot under President Brown. Each president had a different managing style. Brown was old fashioned, "enormously bright," and "sort of a renaissance man." He dictat ed every letter and was a brilliant writer who wrote all his own speeches. He was interested in many things. He did a radio show for WUSF on the singer Fats Waller. He was very
3 competitive and impressed with people who could do many things well. They w orked closely together, celebrating birthdays and having fun. He was very hardworking and had been an engineer. At the time President Brown and Lori Ruse Dietrich both had desk calendars. Brown wanted his desk calendar to be "absolutely perfect" every d ay. The next president, Frank Borkowski, was a musician and he didn't care about the calendar. Brown was a "fine" man and Ms. Ruse Dietrich felt close to all the presidents that she worked with because they worked so closely together for so long. Sec retary's Day with President Brown During secretary's day Brown asked Ms. Ruse Dietrich what she wanted to do. There was a training class in the old gym. She took a lifetime fitness class there. She brought the president to her gym class, which was in a tiny room in the basement of the old gym. She tried to introduce him to everyone, but afterwards he went to every station and showed off. He was competitive and would do push ups in front of all the people. He also worked out and talked to people. She was very tired, but at the end of the workout he wanted to go for a jog. She decided to do it, but it was difficult. She and her husband went to a play one night and at the end of the play the crowd was invited on stage to dance, she was encouraged by President Brown to go up on stage and dance and the two of them were among the dancing crowd. Her office Her office was in a small room across the hall from the President's office. It was difficult because they were closed offices, not glass offices s o you could not see what was going on elsewhere. President Brown's love of chocolate President Brown loved chocolate and once, when she went to Germany Ms. Ruse Dietrich bought flat chocolates for President Brown and put the chocolate between his paper work. He could tell the chocolate was there just by smell before he even found it. President Brown's contribution to USF Ms. Ruse Dietrich thinks that President Brown "put USF on the map." She believes that each president "was special in their own way and did certain things for USF." Brown's ten years got the school "situated" and moved it forward. Katie Brown President Brown's wife Katie was "a remarkable, wonderful woman," who was irreverent and "spicy." At the end of the administration she was si ck of entertaining. When President Brown would have Ms. Ruse Dietrich call Katie and tell her that they had to go to a get together, she would refuse to attend. Ms. Ruse Dietrich would placate her and tell her that she should go because President Brown w ould not like to go alone. This was a regular occurrence.
4 The President's schedule is "always grueling" because of the nature of the work. Ms. Ruse Dietrich was also pretty busy. By this time she had remarried. She lived twenty miles from campus. Her daughter was a student at USF, which was a lot of fun. Getting her degree It was difficult for Ms. Ruse Dietrich to finish her degree. She went to the president's office with the understanding that she would finish her degree, but there is no margin f or error in the job. She studied on the weekends and took some televised courses for electives. She remembers going to Greece one summer and having to study on the plane. When she graduated in 1985, she did not want to go to commencement because her neph ew was graduating and she felt a little old for graduation. President Brown and Dean Jim Strange had a full graduation ceremony, wearing their full regalia, in the president's office just for Ms. Ruse Dietrich and her family. They had champagne afterward s. They were both willing to work with her in regards to her schedule. President Borkowski Francis Borkowski was a "gentleman," an artist, and a musician. He and his wife Kay had "friends galore." Borkowski "started development at USF." For every $1,0 00 that someone gave to the school, President Brown wrote a personal note of thanks. Borkowski started the first Capital Campaign the first major money making campaign. They did a lot of entertaining and were heavily involved in the community. Kay Borko wski was a flutist and taught a little at the school, but was also very important in getting the entertaining done. Frank and Kay Borkowski were "wonderful people." Overall, Borkowski was "an absolutely wonderful wonderful guy with great social skills." He was a "fun loving" person. She would go to the gym over her lunch break and one day he stole her shoes while she was at the gym. During this time, they redid Ms. Ruse Dietrich's office and the interior walls. She now had a glass office right next to President Borkowski. Everyone wanted her to have the glass office to help manage things. Although her official title changed often, there was an understanding that no one else at the school would have her position. During this administration Ms. Ruse Dietrich did a lot of letter writing. They added some secretaries and redecorated the office. Transition from one president to the next Managing the transition of one president to the next is difficult and a lot of work. You need to learn about their whole family, including children. You need to learn things such as what they like to eat. You need to understand that they are president twenty four hours a day. The new president doesn't know where anything is and everything is a learning experience. It is a new relationship. Even the president's wife was not sure what was expected of her. Ms. Ruse Dietrich would always talk to the incoming president's previous office staff and try to figure out how they worked and what they liked. Everything needs to be flexible; you need to work with the new president.
5 Presidential living At that time no home for the president existed. The Foundation bought the Borkowski's a condo in the Bayshore Diplomat, so that move needed to be factored in. Ms. Ruse Di etrich's job description Ms. Ruse Dietrich learned under Brown, but really became better known on campus around this time. Many people were not sure what she did because it was difficult to explain to people what exactly she did. Someone said that her o ffice was "triage," because everyone who came in wanted something and decisions have to made about who gets what because the president cannot see everyone. Borkowski and football He set up the "football feasibility committee" which ultimately led to th e football team being established. He also hired Leroy Selmon to work in the athletic department. The students were excited about the prospect of a football program at USF, but some faculty didn't want a football team. Two students demand to meet with President Borkowski over their parking tickets Two students who had been drinking got a ticket and came demanding to see the president. The receptionist came to tell her and she told President Borkowski to not get involved because legal recourse in iss ues make it important for a president to stay out of some controversial matters. She went out with the calendar and gave them an appointment for February and this was December. President Borkowski thanked her for protecting him. She later called the guy in charge of parking and had him get in touch with the students; they never got to meet with the president. Her routine She would arrive at the office at 8:30 a.m. Ms. Ruse Dietrich needed a few minutes to get settled before people came to her. Once sh e had settled in she would have a meeting with her staff to go over the calendar. She had good people working for her and never lost an employee. She appreciates that she was "empowered" by the president's support to make decisions and make a better work ing environment. Security Over the years, security has become a bigger issue. Under Brown they didn't think about security too much until there was a murder on campus in the Arts and Sciences Building. Everyone knew the victim. During Borkowski's ten ure they didn't think about security too much. When Betty Castor arrived they had to think more about personal security. Interim President Robert Bryan Robert Bryan was an interim President between Frank Borkowski and Betty Castor. He had been the provo st at the University of Florida. He was "very funny" and had a lot of character. He and his wife also lived in Bayshore. He was also a "team builder." He was only here for about six months before President Castor came.
6 President Castor Betty Castor wa s not an academic, which upset some faculty, but she "definitely earned everyone's admiration and respect." Ms. Ruse Dietrich believes that Castor was "a wonderful president" who "brought a political awareness" to the school. Because of her experience, C astor was able to give USF more influence in the state capital. President Castor, although not as competitive as President Brown, was still very competitive. They played tennis together and president Castor always wanted to win. Castor was a state sen ator from Tampa and was Commissioner of Education for seven years before coming to USF. They got savvier under President Castor. Everything was different getting ready for a female president. This administration was very hardworking and President Castor was a very "hands on person." President Castor was a "wonderful wonderful president." She threw a lot of university related parties and started a lot of leadership development programs. Castor had a party allowing faculty members to bring their new pub lications and discuss them. This was a very successful event and one, which the faculty seemed to really appreciate. She also traveled with President Castor. The president did a lot of business on the car phone, so it was nice to have someone to travel with so the other person could drive. This allowed President Castor to read the newspaper. This worked out well. President Castor had a "very diverse" staff. They would all get together after work and have pretzels and wine. Ms. Ruse Dietrich learned a lot from this group, especially about politics. She thought that this time was a lot of fun and the people involved "were really a team." The two didn't jog together often, but they walked and played tennis occasionally (Ms. Ruse Dietrich had always be en athletic and interested in fitness). Lifesey house and social events during Castor's presidency The Lifesey house the president's residence had been completed and Castor's inauguration was the first big event at the house. She lived at the Lifesey Hou se and would ride a bicycle around campus at night just to stay abreast of what was going on. The Lifesey House was a security issue since it was very large. They installed a security system. Castor's husband worked in Tallahassee and came to visit on the weekends, but other than that, President Castor lived at the house alone. One of her children got married there. They had a lot of receptions at the Lifesey House. The first couple of parties were very spontaneous and happened before basketball game s. They would just have pizza and invite people over. President Castor began having a faculty/spouse holiday social at the house, allowing people to see the inside of the Lifesey House. They also had a big Christmas holiday get together for staff where e veryone sang Christmas Carols. They hired Laura Graham as an events manager. Ms. Graham also set up events at the Lifesey House. The first Christmas after President Castor was inaugurated, they had a foundation brunch where many people attended. They d idn't have a Christmas tree, so vice president Cathy Stafford was selected to get a Christmas tree. She went out and bought a twenty foot Christmas tree for the Lifesey house. Castor's overnight retreats They had overnight retreats for the president's staff. There was an agenda to discuss goals for the following year. There was also a dinner. These were very beneficial. The
7 first year it was just the president's staff, but after that a lot of the deans were invited. These retreats took place at Cl earwater Beach. The last year of President Castor's presidency the retreat took place at Saddlebrook. It ended up being a farewell for Castor. They jogged down the beach after the event. President Castor and Ms. Ruse Dietrich joined the dancers on the f loor while still wearing their jogging clothes. Bomb Threat During Betty Castor's presidency there was a bomb threat. One evening in April she received a threat stating that a building would be bombed and a female faculty member would be killed. The people who wrote the threat set a date for the attack. The police investigated the situation, but could not find from where the fax came. They closed the school the day the bomb was set to go off. Only those essential to running the university came to c ampus. The police traveled with President Castor to make sure nothing happened, and nothing did. They found one of the students who was responsible for the threat. This was a "very scary" event in the history of the school. Potential firing of presen t staff by incoming president Ms. Ruse Dietrich didn't know that incoming presidents sometimes fire the present secretaries. When a new president came to USF she would often get offers from other places, but had never considered that she might lose her j ob. Castor was a "hard worker." Just before she started the job, Castor and Ms. Ruse Dietrich rode to a museum for her inauguration. At the museum, when introduced to Ms. Ruse Dietrich's husband, President Castor said that she hoped "Lori's ready to wor k harder than she's ever worked in her life," and this turned out to be true. Landscaping of USF She was also interested in establishing a campus community. Ms. Ruse Dietrich believes that president Castor is responsible for the appearance of the campu s. The campus used to be "like a desert" and they found that people wanted more landscaping and shade. Castor would even call someone when trees were dying to take care of them. She would also call a dean and tell them that she was coming over to look at the building. They would find things that needed to be fixed. President Judy Genshaft President Genshaft's time has been different because she has to "assimilate in the Board of Trustees," which was a new body for university governance. She did a ve ry good job at making that happen. Ms. Ruse Dietrich was only here for two years during Genshaft's tenure. She accomplished a lot of beautification projects that have helped the school. The buildings have been painted some beautiful colors, and the grow ing trees make the campus even more "exquisitely beautiful." President Genshaft called Ms. Ruse Dietrich from the airport, and asked her to do some things that first day. Everyone really liked her from the very beginning. It was different getting to kno w president Genshaft because she wasn't going to live at the Lifesey House. She had small children and wanted to live in a regular neighborhood. Ms. Ruse Dietrich was expected to learn the ins and outs of everything. She and President Genshaft got along very well. Ms. Ruse Dietrich describes Genshaft as "a very very nice person." President Genshaft is interested in
8 physical fitness and Ms. Ruse Dietrich introduced her to a trainer. President Genshaft also spends a lot of time keeping the Board of Tru stees informed. Ms. Ruse Dietrich believes that Genshaft is still "making her mark." She is a friendly person and delegates a lot. She is doing a lot of development work because the school is so large. She spends a lot of time talking to donors. Septe mber 11, 2001 She was here for September 11, 2001. She was on campus and watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center while in the provost's office. Her children are in New York and this was a stressful time. President Genshaft was in David Stamp s' office. Security changes after 9/11 There were some security changes at the president's office after September 11 th They made the office less open and established a security code. They made the front access the only way to get into the office. Sa mi Al Arian There was a lot of discussion of security because Professor Sami Al Arian appeared on television and there were a lot of emails in response to his appearance. The Board of Trustees wanted Al Arian to be fired, but instead President Genshaft p laced him on leave without pay. She took this course of action because the FBI wouldn't release evidence against Al Arian and it is difficult to fire a faculty member without any evidence as to why this person should be fired. E mail and letters from t he community to presidents Under President Castor, Ms. Ruse Dietrich wrote a lot of letters to community members. People really enjoyed getting letters from the president. During Genshaft's term they received a lot of email and tried to answer as much of it as possible. They received a lot of email after 9/11. Ms. Ruse Dietrich surmises that half of the emails were supportive and half were negative. They saved all of them. Presidential Search Ms. Ruse Dietrich never got involved in the presidential sea rches because she wanted to work for whomever was hired and not have a preference. Presidents and the different campuses Being a university president is "an enormous job." Under Borkowski there were problems on all the campuses. They would also have t o go to convocations at all the campuses. The president had to travel quite a bit. The campuses began to have their own convocation ceremonies and the presidents no longer had to attend every convocation. Retirement Ms. Ruse Dietrich retired in 2002. She decided to retire when she had worked for thirty years at USF. She worked until the age of sixty one. Her job, as "the person that represents the president," was a lot of responsibility. Her job had a high level of visibility and everything she did reflected on the president. She was very tired and ready to retire.
9 Her husband said she needed "a convalescent home, not a holiday." Her husband, Richard Dietrich, is a distinguished faculty member in the English Department. Now that she has retired they have time to travel together. Final Thoughts Ms. Ruse Dietrich would like to say that USF "is a fine institution" and she had a "wonderful career." The presidents "were all wonderful," the job was "exciting and challenging" and she "met lots of wond erful, interesting people." When she comes to campus, Ms. Ruse Dietrich is stunned by how "amazingly beautiful" the campus is. It went from "a drab and bland, hot campus" to a "very exciting place." She is "very happy to have been a part of it." She is glad that the campus can meet the city's needs. She is happy to have spent her life in an education environment. End of Interview