September 9, 2008

Talking to Vicki Hannan, manager of the College of Engineering’s (CoE) administrative offices in Patrick F. Taylor Hall, is like interviewing CoE’s section of the Gumbo archives. Vicki has been at LSU for an incredible 35 years—first as a undergraduate history major, then (and now) as manager of the CoE’s administrative office. The University recently recognized “Ms. Vicki” for 35 years of service and dedication. The award presented the perfect opportunity to revisit our local legend for a fresh look at the past and a seasoned perspective on the future.

Hannan was interviewed in 1994, when she received LSU’s 25-year service award, and since that time, the CoE—along with the University—has changed and matured. Hannan began her career as a student worker on the day of Richard Nixon’s inauguration, January 20, 1969; nine years later, she helped move the CoE from Atkinson Hall to Patrick F. Taylor Hall (formerly CEBA).  She has also helped move CoE administration from manual processes into the Information Age. “I wasn’t comfortable with the technological advances at first, but I’ve been dragged into the 21st Century!” she laughs from behind her feather-boaed monitor. “In 1985, when we had our first computer training class, I was one of those people who asked, ‘How do you turn it on?’”

“Now, everything is tech-based, and every change in computer technology brings change in the way we do things. Before, we used to send letters and keep everything on paper; now, we e-mail everything to everyone.” Although technology has accelerated the administrative process, Hannan still keeps a hard copy just in case.

In addition, students are more tech-savvy, and she applauds the growing number of female CoE undergrads and notes that the graduate student body remains diverse. She’s also proud of the far-reaching successes of CoE alumni, many of whom still keep in touch with her—via e-mail, of course.

Hannan is “the face of the College,” and most students’ first point of contact with administration, and the students really are her kids, and her love for them shows in her smile. “I have two families,” she asserts maternally, “one at work, and one at home, both LSU!”  She, her husband Frank, her siblings, and her son Brady, now 23, are all LSU alumni. And it’s her love for her LSU kids, both in CoE and in other departments across campus, which keeps “Ms. Vicki” going strong. She loves being “up front,” having long ago turned down offers for a private office, as well as numerous transfer opportunities. She could even have retired in 2005, but still enjoys her workday too much to leave the very close-knit CoE group. To explain why she remains, Vicki simply points to her life philosophy, posted in black and white on the wall above her desk.

“I shall pass this way but once. Any good that I can do, any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect, for I shall not pass this way again.”variously attributed to Etienne de Grellet, among others.

“I got it years ago from Dr. Clarence Hall, a retired Engineering Graphics professor. I read it every day,” Vicki says, smiling. “That’s why I work at LSU. That’s why I work in the front, with the students. I want to be where I can help them everyday.”

After rising to Administrative Program Specialist A, the Civil Service grade she achieved with her last promotion, Vicki has reached the top of her career ladder, and will soon retire with 40 years of continuous service.

She’ll miss the engineers. “You just have to get past the “by-the-book” part of the engineer personality,” she quips, “but then you run into someone like Dr. Wagg (Associate Dean Warren Waggenspack) who just breaks the mold!” Laughing loudly, she looks up to make sure he can hear her joke, if he’s around, then delivers the punch line with a comic’s aplomb. “What’r’ya gonna do?”

Article by Kip Britton for the LSU College of Engineering, 225-578-5706,
mlavall@lsu.edu 

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