Barbara Jessie retires after 32 years of service

For information on Barbara’s retirement celebration on May 8, click here.

From “community college” to “college”…from our second president, Alan Robertson, to our fourth, Jackson Sasser…from 7,000 students to 18,000 students…from typewriters with correcting ribbons to personal computers…from students standing in line to register for classes to the on-line registration system of today…and from a work environment with no social media presence to the era of email, Facebook, Twitter and hashtags, Barbara Jessie has witnessed major changes in her 32 years at Santa Fe College.

Jessie’s observations highlight the vision of the SF College founders, who in the 1960s required each new student to take a course called “The Individual in a Changing Environment.” Better known as BE 100, the course encouraged students to be aware that their work lives would be marked by cultural changes and rapid advancements in technology.

“The technological changes have been huge,” said Jessie, who retires this year. “But, people have stayed the same, only some are much younger now! The caring, willingness to help one another and to connect is still here, even though many of the faces have changed.”

In 1983, Jessie was hired as a clerk in the Office for Development under the long-time director of that department, W. Harvey Sharron, Jr. She worked her way up to administrative assistant and in 1990 was promoted to office manager, when she moved to the Blount Center with Dr. Portia Taylor.

Jessie says her years spent working at the Blount Center marked her favorite job at SF.

“It was exciting to have been part of the staff when the center opened,” she remembers. “I got to work in the Development Office when the planning and renovations all took place. We didn’t just contribute, we were part of the community.”

In 2002, Taylor returned to the Northwest Campus to become Vice President for Student Affairs; she invited Jessie to come with her.

“I accepted without hesitation,” Jessie said. “Portia taught me the value of people and that we all don’t walk the same path to get where we are going. She showed me that getting involved keeps you connected and lets others know that you care.”

For Jessie, “getting involved” includes an almost-encyclopedic list of activities. At SF, she served two terms as Career Service Chair, two years as the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) Chapter Treasurer, two years as AFC Chapter President, one year as AFC Region II Director and two years as AFC Vice President for Regions. She co-chaired the March of Dimes Campaign for two years and co-chaired the United Way Campaign in 2000. Not surprisingly, Jessie’s awards at Santa Fe College include Honorable Mention for the Alan J. Robertson Award and 1997 FACC Employee of the Year.

In the community, she served on the Alachua County Legislative Day Committee, the Board of Directors of the PACE Center for Girls, the Board of Adopt-A-River, and chaired Boy Scout Troup 88 of Alachua. She currently serves on the Board of Gainesville’s Cultural Arts Coalition. Somehow, she also found time to be a Rockin’ Reader at Duval Elementary School.

Jessie says that organizing the graduation ceremonies was her biggest challenge as well as the highlight of her SF career.

“I never had to organize an event like this before,” she said. “The fortunate part is that Santa Fe College has an awesome Graduation Committee, along with Media Services and Facilities, that make it all happen. It’s my proudest achievement because it’s a celebration of our students’ accomplishments.”

Asked what she would choose to do differently, Jessie demonstrates the philosophical attitude that is one of the foundations of her success.

“I don’t know that I would do anything differently,” she said. “Everything that has happened in my life has been a learning experience and has enriched my life in one way or another.”

Jessie’s advice to future employees is brief but powerful:  “This is a wonderful place to be, but it can only be as good as we make it. Get involved, get to know your co-workers and always keep a positive outlook.”

While she is looking forward to retirement and spending time with family and friends, Jessie says she will “miss seeing my Santa Fe family who have been an everyday part of my life for the last 32 years.”

“Janet Foster told me that if I got too lonely, all I would need to do is go shopping at the Spring Hill Publix between 4:40 and 5 p.m. and I would run into most everyone I know!” she laughed.

Congratulations, Barbara, you’ve helped to make Santa Fe College number one!