September 8, 2017 - Thunder Bay, ON
Lakehead’s Department of Psychology will soon celebrate the fact that Mary Lysenchuk has worked at the University for 50 years.
She applied in person on Friday, Aug. 25, 1967, shortly after graduating from high school.
“I met with the HR officer,” Mary said. “She took me to the Library and Mr. Belton, the Chief Librarian, dictated a letter that I had to type as a test. When I got home that day I received a call informing me I got the job.”
Mary still remembers her first day as Library Assistant – Monday, Aug. 28, 1967 – typing catalogue files, which was how they kept track of where each book was located.
“That first day was pretty busy,” Mary said. “In the past you sat at your desk for seven hours and your head was down, typing. Jobs have changed a lot since then.”
In 1969 the administrative assistant position became available in Psychology. Mary thought it would be the perfect job so she applied and was selected for the position.
It was a smaller group of employees and students on campus back then.
“We had offices in the Braun building, which was one of the few buildings on campus. Everyone knew one another and there was a family-like atmosphere. Everyone was engaged in helping the university grow and prosper. Every Friday afternoon everyone socialized in the Faculty Lounge,” she said.
Psychology has grown from offering a Master’s program in 1968 to now also having an accredited PhD program, which the department began offering in 1995.
Technology also changed a lot over the years. When she started working as a Departmental Assistant, Mary worked on a typewriter. Every memo and letter was dictated and then transcribed. Research papers were typed and retyped because if there was a change in the first page, then the whole paper had to be retyped.
To make copies, she used a Ditto machine, then a Gestetner, and then a Xerox machine.
In the 1980s, Mary got the first computer in her department, which may have been the first on campus. “It was a Macintosh. It looked like a small box,” she said. The screen was about six inches and there was no hard drive. The operating system was on a disk.
“A technician from the University’s computer department came to show me how to use it. All the faculty stood around the computer in awe. I was in the doorway and could not see a thing. That was OK because I asked the technician to come back the next day to give me the real training.”
Mary ended up teaching other employees how to use the computer. She has also been very helpful to the 10 very different Psychology Chairs that she worked with.
“One time when I was first Chair, she asked me if there was anything she could help me with,” said Dr. John Jamieson, a former Chair of Psychology.
“I was struggling with a difficult administrative decision and I described it to her. She gave me the solution! I learned from then on always to consult with Mary when faced with a complex issue, since she knew how similar issues had been resolved in the past,” he said. “She is a pillar of strength and wisdom, quietly doing her job.”
Even after 50 years, Mary hasn’t announced a retirement date. She said she will retire when she is ready. Throughout her career, there were days when she felt sick, but she usually went in anyway.
“I feel if I’m lucky enough to be healthy, I’m going to come to work. I don’t take much time off.”
Mary has worked with thousands of students, many of whom are now employed in Mental Health Services in Thunder Bay. She offered some advice for young people starting out in a new job.
“Stay if you enjoy it. It is rare that you find a job that you enjoy for 50 years. If you like where you are, stay there.”
When Mary retires, she will miss the wonderful people she worked with the most. Mary worked with Sheila Delin, the Test Librarian and Graduate Assistant in the Department of Psychology for 35 years, who recently retired.
“We were a great team. Not only did we have a good working relationship, we shared coffee breaks, lunches and many good and sad occasions for 35 years. It is a gift when you work with someone for so many years and you work so well together.
“You come to work and you’ve got people coming into your office; happy, friendly, young students, fresh minds, what more could you ask for? It’s a good working environment.”
But she won’t miss having to leave the house on the snowy, cold days early in the morning, and she won’t miss having to be on a schedule.
“The first Chairman that I worked for told me that it does not matter what position you hold, everyone is important to the team. After working at Lakehead University for 50 years I have received nothing but respect and friendship.
“It has been my pleasure to be a member of this institution’s community, surrounded by warm, kind and thoughtful people.”
On May 2, Dr. Brian Stevenson, Lakehead’s President and Vice-Chancellor, recognized Mary’s dedication by presenting her with a small gift at the Employee Service Recognition Reception.
The Psychology department will hold a reception to celebrate Mary’s 50th anniversary at Lakehead on Friday, Sept. 8 from 3 to 5 pm in the Study Coffeehouse. All are welcome to attend.