Hagemann secretary retires after 2 decades

SOFIA LEGASPI, Campus Life Editor

A familiar face on campus is retiring this semester after 24 years at UNI.

Clarine “Louie” Hartman has spent two decades serving as the secretary for Hagemann Hall. Her job involves making purchases, paying the bills and completing a whole lot of paperwork. Her biggest responsibility, however, is to make Hagemann Hall a welcoming place for all who walk through its doors.

“My motto in life has never been to make someone’s day worse,” Hartman said, “so always try to be friendly and build people up, and just do something to make their day a little better.”

During her time at Hagemann, Hartman has bettered the days of an estimated 7,000 students — not to mention their families, her coworkers and others who have visited the residence hall.

Before Hagemann, Hartman spent four years in the office of the Dean of Education. She had been working various office jobs, from optometrists and medical clinics to law offices and loan processing, since the age of 13. While her own children were attending UNI, Hartman fell in love with the school’s atmosphere and decided she wanted to be a part of it.

“The problem with that: I was so [in] over my head. I’d never been to college. Back then, you didn’t have to,” she said. “So I knew none of the language, degrees, just the whole terminology. I had to learn everything about campus, about college.”

Nonetheless, Hartman was hired. Her daughter, who had lived in Hagemann for two years, was also working in the dean’s office at the time.

“I didn’t know anything!” Hartman recalled. “All I remember saying at the interview was, you know, I’m in the private sector, used to doing all the jobs — I said, I’ll make coffee, I’ll fix the copier, whatever it takes. And that’s what got me the job, was that kind of attitude.”

Most people know Hartman as “Louie.” The youngest of six girls with a 13-year gap between her and the next youngest, “Louie” was the name she would have had if she had been a baby boy.

On her first day of work at UNI, Dean of Education Thomas Switzer decided that she would be called by her given name of “Clarine.”

“And that lasted till noon,” Hartman said with a laugh. “And they came back and they said, ‘Nah, we’re just gonna call you ‘Louie.’”

After some time at the dean’s office, Hartman decided it wasn’t for her. In 1999, she heard that the current Hagemann Hall secretary was retiring, applied for the position and has been there ever since.

“I have loved this job,” she said. “It has so suited me.”

Hartman said it’s the problem-solving nature of the job she most enjoys. She also appreciates “seeing the growth” in students through the years.

“And then I could always joke with the kids. I never had to do the discipline end of it, you know,” she said, laughing. “I could just have fun.”

One of Hartman’s favorite memories involves dressing up as Elvis Presley during the holidays for a “Cider with the King” program. She has organized countless other projects to make Hagemann a welcoming place, from serving red velvet shakes on Valentine’s Day to bringing in her own plants from home to spruce up the hall’s lobby.

Amidst all the good days in Hagemann have been the not-so-good ones. Hartman recalled worst day on the job: Sept. 11, 2001.

“We just shut the office, put the sign on it: ‘Come down to the rec room.’ We had [the news] on down there,” she said. “And then we just hugged kids.”

Through the years, Hartman said she has seen the level of interaction among both staff and students decrease.

“We’ve really had fun,” she said. “A lot more laughter used to go on. I don’t hear much laughter anymore, but I think people are on their devices.”

New technologies have brought other changes to many aspects of the job, from the package-logging system to the way hall staff communicates with residents. Hartman explained how re-contracting to live on campus used to be an on-paper, in-person process instead of a few clicks online.

“I would try to get here real early, but the kids would come and spend the night out here [outside the office]. They’d be sleeping, they would line up,” Hartman said. “Because we took first-come, first-serve, you know. But oh, it was so hectic because it was like, ‘Let me open the door!’”

After having spent so many years in Hagemann and seeing the changes come and go — including working with seven different residence life coordinators — Hartman said her upcoming retirement felt “surreal.” Although she will miss the job, Hartman said the time feels right to move on.

“Honestly, the generation gap is showing,” she said. “You know, I was 50 years older than the freshman class this year, and I noticed that.”

After retirement, Hartman is looking forward to focusing on her other career in real estate. Outside of work, she also enjoys tending to her garden and lawn, being outdoors, reading and spending time with her children and grandchildren. She and her husband Ron, who is also retiring, plan to take their camper and “bum around the United States” for a while.

As much as Hartman may be looking forward to retirement, saying goodbye is never easy.

“It’s hard,” she said. “You get attached; they leave. You get attached to students, you leave. Everybody leaves the nest.”

Although Hartman, may be leaving the UNI nest, too, it will be a long time before the impact she has left on the campus community disappears.