Tuesday May 31, 2011

Registrar Linda Cole Retires

Registrar Linda Cole, who first joined the School of Law in 1980 as a faculty secretary, is retiring in June. As registrar, Cole was responsible for student registration, exam administration and maintaining academic files, as well as with assisting to prepare academic calendars and course and exam schedules.

Registrar Linda Cole often refers affectionately to law students as "chicks," or "chickens," or "cats." Her job, she'll say, feels like "herding cats" or "counting chickens."

But now as she prepares for what she called her own adventure, Cole said, "This chick is getting ready to leave the nest."

That's because Cole is retiring in June as University of Dayton School of Law registrar, a position she has held for almost three decades. She plans to move to Nebraska later this year, the first time she will live outside of Ohio.

Shannon Penn, a former assistant registrar, will return to Dayton Law and assume the position of registrar this summer.

As registrar, Cole was responsible for student registration, exam administration and maintaining academic files. She also assists the associate dean for academic affairs in preparing the academic calendars and course and exam schedules as well as counseling students about the School's academic policies and procedures.

"My task is to help the students stay on track and move forward while keeping the processes as simple as possible," she said.

Cole first joined the School of Law in 1980 as a faculty secretary. The following summer, she was named the recorder, the title once given to the registrar position. In the mid-1990s, she left the School for three years. She returned to the University to work for UD's Ph.D. program, and finally came back to the School of Law at the request of Dean Fran Conte.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Richard Perna noted that as the School's size and operations grew over the last three decades so to did Cole's skills and responsibilities.

"Linda has played an enormous and important role in the success and growth of the School of Law," Perna said. "She has performed her substantial and taxing responsibilities with skill, grace and a sense of humor."

Over the years, the responsibilities of the Registrar's Office have grown more numerous and complex. For instance, Cole said, many responsibilities that the office oversees today were once handled by the University's Registrar's Office. Today, the only task the Dayton Law office doesn't handle in-house is providing requests for official transcripts.

Each semester has its own challenges, including registration and exam periods, that Cole described as "all consuming." Cole also helped implement the Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum, which, when started introduced concentrations that students had to focus on, and the Two-Year Program.

Technology has had the largest impact on the Registrar's Office. When Cole first started, she said, "we did everything on paper."

"Now, everything is computer-based," she said.

This has meant that Cole and her staff have had to learn different software and develop new processes to keep the office running effectively and efficiently. Or as she put it, "to count chickens, to know where every student is at every moment academically."

In addition, each associate dean for academic affairs has influenced how the office operates. In all, Cole has worked with six different associate deans, including twice with Kel Dickinson and Rick Perna, the current associate dean, and with five School of Law deans: Norman George (who was interim dean), Fred Davis, Dennis Turner (who was interim dean), Fran Conte and Lisa Kloppenberg. In fact, the only dean she hasn't worked with is the School's first, Dick Braun, who served from 1974 to 1980.

"Everyone brought their own style," Cole said, "and you learned a lot that way."

In addition to changes in personnel and technology, Cole has had to endure several personal hardships over the last three decades. Dayton Law faculty, staff and students helped her get through those difficult times.

"They surround you and ask how you are and they listen to you and care for you," she said. "I'm just very lucky that I was here during those times. While the job has been fun and challenging, and, on the occasion, crazy with details, it is really the relationships formed over the years that will be the hardest to leave."

"This has been an amazing and wonderful and challenging and safe place to grow up."

For more information, contact Bob Mihalek at 937-229-4683.