48 years, 7 presidents

Courtesy photo: Executive Administrative Assistant Linda Schumacher on one of her final days in the South Dakota State University Office of the President, where she spent nearly five decades. Her first day on the job, as a secretary, was July 5, 1972.

Linda Schumacher steps down after nearly five decades at SD State

BROOKINGS – “It’s going to be tough for me, really tough.” 

So said Linda Schumacher, stepping down after nearly five decades working in the Office of the President of South Dakota State University. Her first day on the job was July 5, 1972. Her retirement day was June 21.

“I’ve always been in the president’s office,” Schumacher said. “I’m trying to think of what they called us when I first started working here, probably as a secretary.”

Hilton Briggs was then president, the first of seven who would be at the helm during her time in the front office on the second floor of the Administration Building. She departs as executive administrative assistant to President Barry Dunn, still in the same executive suite in what is now Morrill Hall, a name associated with SDSU’s birth as a land-grant college in 1881.

Schumacher takes with her a collection of memorable moments, both for the university and for herself while in the school’s employ: the move to Division 1; SDSU’s 125th Anniversary Gala in 2006, when President Peggy Miller presented her, along with four other people, a Presidential Citation; in fall 2012 she and several others were recognized during a football game halftime with an Honorary Letter for Outstanding Service to Jackrabbit Athletics; and finally in April 2019, she was recognized by the SDSU Foundation as a new member of the SDSU Lifetime Giving Society. Among other memories are those tied to the university and the presidents for which she worked.

“Each time a new president was named was always a memorable moment,” Schumacher said. 

Add to those “all the Jackrabbit basketball tournaments and championships, football championships, greeting people coming to the president’s suite at the football stadium, attending the Madrigals and Prairie Repertory plays.”

Challenges, changes, rewards

Looking back over all those years working at the same place,  Schumacher noted that the place she worked didn’t stay the same: presidents and others in the employ of the university came and went and the managerial tools for the day-to-day administration evolved.

“I learned seven different management styles, which is what made my job interesting,” she said. “The president’s calendar was probably the most challenging, working in all the meeting requests and still giving the president an opportunity to catch up on mail and emails.”

During her first 10 years on the job, Schumacher worked with a variable spacer typewriter, carbon copies, shorthand, a mimeograph machine, and a Dictaphone to capture presidential correspondence. In 1983, the office took its first steps into the age of information technology.

“In 1983 we got our first computer and from then on technology took over,” she said. “We went from writing everything into a calendar to doing electronic calendars.”

With those years now coming to a close, Schumacher can reflect on the rewards that came with the job. 

They include: “The opportunity to be a member of the president’s team; watching the university grow into what it is today; meeting and working with donors”; and “working with the Board of Regents, governmental agencies, alumni, Foundation, faculty, staff and students, making lifelong friends.”

She admits that leaving won’t be easy. “I will miss those I work with, the entire SDSU family, alumni and Foundation folks. I will miss my job and not coming to work each day.”

That being said, she sees much to look forward to.  

Good days ahead

“Retirement plans? I have worked all my life, so retirement is going to be very different for me,” Schumacher explained. “I look forward to spending more time with my grandchildren, helping my daughter in the classroom, working more at my church, doing some traveling, some more reading and volunteering, such as at McCrory Gardens.”

Add to this a laundry list of hobbies and pastimes that include gardening, walking, bike riding, geocaching, pinochle with her card club group, her church book club, singing in the church choir, and maybe a return to sewing.

“I used to do a lot of sewing,” she said, adding that she hasn’t had the opportunity to do that for some time. “I might just have to invest in a new sewing machine!”

Schumacher is a native of Echo, Minnesota, and a graduate of Bethany Lutheran College (Mankato), where she earned an associate of arts degree. She worked there as a senior secretary before coming to SDSU.

Her husband Chris Schumacher died in 2012. They have two grown children and five grandchildren.

Contact John Kubal at [email protected].

Presidential memories

In her 48 years, Schumacher has served seven presidents and has memories of each one of them.

• Hilton Briggs (1958-75): “You knew where you stood with him. He was notorious for dictating letters. He would always start a letter, walk out the door before he finished it, and I had to figure out the ending of the letter.”

• Sherwood Berg (1975-84): “A very kind, gentle person. He started all our international programs. If the weather was getting bad, Betty (his wife) would call and say, ‘Linda, I think you should go home and I’ll answer the phones.’”

• Ray Hoops (1984-85): “He was a difficult person with whom to work. To me, he was not personable. He did not have a lot for patience. I want to treat people the way I want to be treated. He did tell me, ‘You have a way with people that I don’t.’”

• Robert Wagner (1985-97): “I think because of his ministerial background, he knew how to work with people. His personality lent very well with getting this institution back to where it ought to be. He was very easy to work with. He would actually come out and talk to the secretaries about our day. He had a concern for everybody.”

• Peggy Miller (1998-2006): “A dear lady who loved the students and would always make time for them. She’s the one who worked feverishly to move us into Division I. She could see the future and knew Division I was the way to stay ahead of everything. She always took very good care of the secretaries in the office.”

• David Chicoine (2007-16): “Very businesslike and I very much enjoyed working with him. The current budgeting concept was initiated by him; numerous buildings were put up on this campus, we started doing the electronic calendars, and the SDSU Foundation started and completed the university’s largest fundraising campaign.”

• Barry Dunn (2016-present): “He is a very kind person and easy to work with. I’m very happy and proud of him for championing the importance of educating Native Americans and continuing to move forward the Wokini initiative, not only locally, but nationwide. He’s a good example for all of us.”

– From SDSU Marketing & Communications

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