'Mount Union Mom' Retires After 23 Years on the Job
April 22, 2010
By JACK R. WEBER Jr. Janet Oprandi has witnessed life at Mount Union College from a unique perspective over the past 23 years.
By JACK R. WEBER Jr.
Janet Oprandi has witnessed life at Mount Union College from a unique perspective over the past 23 years.
Lurking in the basement of Beeghly Hall in her capacity as service center manager, Oprandi knew nearly every other employee of the college and was a Mount Union Mom for nearly 250 work study students.
Her view of the world from now on, however, will be from her back porch in Sebring where she will still have a piece of Mount Union hanging above her head - the former service center sign.
"I thought she deserved that," said Dotty Baia, who has worked with Oprandi for the past 20 years. "So when they were remodeling these offices, I took that down and gave it to her last week to take with her."
After a restructuring of the college's operations, in which all of the college printing will be outsourced to Document Concepts of Canton, Oprandi has decided to retire after more than 40 years in the workforce that included 10 years at Copeland Oaks and seven years at Morgan Engineering.
Today is her last day as an employee of Mount Union where she has managed the mail center for the past six months, a position that will be taken over by Baia.
"I've loved every minute of it," said Oprandi. "There was never a day that I didn't want to get up and come to work. I had a great mentor in Dave Freshly who taught me a lot about management when I first started. Over the years, I did so much work for every professor and every administrator that I think I may have been one of the few people that knew everybody. And I'll miss all those people."
For most of her time at Mount Union, Oprandi oversaw a department that handled all the mail and printing on campus, an operation of Oprandi and Baia along with an average of 12 student workers per year.
"Janet taught me how to run the presses and even though she was the supervisor and I was the worker, she always told me we were equals and she treated me that way," said Baia. "She's become a real friend and I will miss her. We've worked so closely as partners, it's like we were married."
The past week has been a series of tears and giggles between the two as they recall the past two decades of working side by side.
The pair watched as the campus mail tripled in volume and the two of them ushered in the use of color, beginning with purple, into the college's print work.
"It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun, too," said Oprandi.
There were at least three times she recalls holding prayer circles for ill family members of the staff. On the other hand, there was also the annual practical joke on Steve Kramer, a professor of psychology.
"Even after we started delivering the mail to faculty members' offices, Dr. Kramer would come to Beeghly Hall to get his mail," said Oprandi. "We became pretty good friends, so it was an annual joke for us to do something to his directory. Sometimes it was blank inside, sometimes it was just a new cover on the old directory, so the numbers inside would be wrong. We just had a lot of fun together like that."
Oprandi's jiving went straight to the top, too.
During her tenure at Mount Union, Oprandi saw four presidents come and go, beginning with Ben Lance, followed by Harold Kolenbrander, Jack Ewing and Richard Giese.
"Not many people can get away with what I did here," said Oprandi. "Whenever I saw one of those presidents coming in after 8 a.m., I would tap my wrist and say, You're late. We start at 8 a.m. here."It got to the point that when they saw me on one of those occasions, they would say, I know, I'm late. That wouldn't happen at too many places and that's why I loved it here."
There's no doubt that Oprandi, the mother of three and grandmother of four, touched the lives of her student workers as well.
Dave Ramos and Karen Newman were both hired by Oprandi and eventually met at the service center. They are now the parents of three and live in Canton.
"I saw them at a mall one day, and thought, Oh, they must be babysitting," said Oprandi. "When they told me all three kids were theirs, I realized how long I've been here. They didn't know each other when I hired them and now they're a family."
Sebring native Brad Whitlatch likely would never have become an educator if it hadn't been for a nudge from Oprandi.
"I walked into work one day and I started telling Janet how I hated my major and I didn't know what to do," explained Whitlatch, now a seventh- and eighth-grade intervention specialist and junior high football coach in Worthington. "She told me there were really no jobs in what I was studying and said, You like kids and sports. You should be a teacher and a coach. Change your major."
When Whitlatch reported for work the next day, Oprandi told him he had the day off because he had an appointment with the head of the education department.
"She had gone behind my back and made the appointment for me," said Whitlatch. "She knew I would never do it myself because thinking about changing majors just seemed like a huge deal to me."
"It was more than just a little prod," said Whitlatch. "It was an all-out push. But she gave me my path. She took that first giant step with me and along the way she helped me with printing up handouts and things like that.
I will always be thankful to her."
For Jamey Mullen, a 1991 Mount Union graduate who is now the CEO of the YMCA in Norwich, N.Y., working for Oprandi and Baia were among the best of college memories.
"It was a pleasure working for both of them and Janet was like a second mother to everyone," said Mullen. "Whatever they expected you to do wasn't something that they wouldn't do themselves. I really respected that."
Mullen also has a special "fish story."
One spring break, Mullen left his tropical fish in the service center for Oprandi and Baia to look over. By the third day, the fish was dead.
'We went out to the pet store and found a similar fish, but it was a little smaller," said Oprandi. "We thought maybe he would notice, but he never said anything."
"Jamey came up to me and said, I was sure you'd kill my fish so I gave it to you because I didn't know how I was going to get it home," recalled Oprandi. "That's when I confessed and told him it was a bought fish."
Mullen never suspected a thing.
"They were always so honest," said Mullen. "I was surprised to see a live fish, though. She was like a mother to so many people. She was a very, very caring person, willing to help. I guess that was a mother-type move."