Three of Wellesley's Longest-Serving Staff Members Share Their Stories

May 6, 2015
Frances Adams, Marion Just, George Reebe, some of Wellesley's longest serving employees

President H. Kim Bottomly recently hosted a reception to honor long-term employees who are celebrating significant work anniversaries this year. “Wellesley continues to be an exceptional place to learn, live, work, and thrive because of the faculty, staff, and union members who, year after year, give so much of their time and energy to the College,” she said. “It’s this unwavering commitment that makes our diverse and vibrant community so special.”

For some of those who have served the longest, the official recognition complements the satisfaction that comes from seeing how their unique talents and contributions have enriched the lives of Wellesley students.

Celebrating her 45th anniversary at the College is Marion R. Just, professor of Political Science. She is something of a legend at Wellesley, having taught generations of young women to understand the relationship between politics and the media. She joined the Political Science Department in 1970, after a mutual friend put her in touch with Professor Ruth Deutsch of the German Department. “Ruth told me that she looked forward every day to going to work,” Just said. “Nobody else I spoke to about other jobs said that.” 

From the beginning, Just appreciated the distinguished faculty and the close interactions with students, many of whom were inspired by her teaching to pursue careers as journalists, professors, judges, and leaders of corporations. “I especially value the notes from alumnae who tell me what they are doing in the world and what they took away from classes with me,” she said.  

Just uses social media to stay in touch with many former students. She has also worked with alumnae on timely recent projects. “I’ve published an article with one former student who is an expert on global trade and has been in the news recently, advocating against the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” she said. Her closest collaboration was with a former thesis student who is now a professor of politics and media at the University of Southern California. The two have co-authored three books, as well as several articles. 

Students have also learned important life lessons from Fran Adams, who has worked in Wellesley’s mail service department since 1975. When she began, as a 22-year-old who dreamed of becoming a teacher, mail was sorted and distributed in Green Hall; Adams and 11 student workers processed thousands of letters each week.

Initially, Adams was like an older sister to them, providing encouragement as the young women adjusted to college life and separation from their often faraway families.

Over time, students viewed her as a motherly figure, and they sought her advice when they picked up their mail or reported for work. Adams helped many develop self-confidence and a healthy approach to their rigorous studies. “I have always believed that I am here to help these amazing young women make it to graduation,” she said.

In recent years, new mail facilities on campus, computer tracking, and email have changed the College’s mail stream (which is now composed mainly of packages), but not Adams’ sense of mission: “These women are the reason I continue to work here,” she said, pointing to a poster board covered with photos of alums who stay in touch through holiday cards, phone calls, and annual visits. “We’re an extended family. They open my eyes to new possibilities. They keep me young.” 

George W. Reebe, Jr., head of Wellesley’s motor pool, will retire in July after 45 years of service. He played two years of minor league baseball for the Red Sox before starting work in the College's roofing shop, “not my favorite job since I don’t like heights,” he said. Today, he and his six-member crew are responsible for maintaining nearly 100 vehicles, including five police cruisers, two vans, and an assortment of front-end loaders, sidewalk plows, golf carts, and lawn mowers.

Like Just and Adams, Reebe has always worked hard to help students reach their destination—safely. He and his team plow during the winter—a monumental task this past year—and ensure that vans are always ready to pick up trustees at the airport or transport students around campus after dark. “Everything I do is about the students,” he said. “They’re the reason I’m here.”

Some of Reebe’s fondest memories come from graduation days when he has assisted parents whose cars won’t start after commencement. “Often I’ve received a thank-you note one month later,” he said.

In 1990, he received verbal thank-you’s from Secret Service members after he jump-started a Cadillac that was scheduled to take First Lady Barbara Bush, that year’s commencement speaker, and Raisa Gorbachev back to the airport. “I got it started,” Reebe recalled proudly. “But that hood was so heavy. It was reinforced with steel.”

See the full list of faculty and staff members who are celebrating a milestone anniversary this year.