Manchester University / Alumni / MU Alumni News / Newsletter Archives / @manchester Newsletter July 2020 / Rita Schroll retires after 53 years of service to Manchester

Rita Schroll retires after 53 years of service to Manchester

Taylor Strong (left), administrative assistant for alumni relations, poses with Rita Schroll

Manchester has seen a lot of change in its 131 years. For 53 of them, Rita Schroll had a front-row seat.

Employed at Manchester since June 13, 1966, Rita retired Dec. 31 as administrative assistant in the Office of University Advancement (OUA). Her goodbye was as difficult for her as it was for the colleagues who never knew a time when she wasn’t there to unjam the printer, locate an office supply or, most importantly, be a friend. “This has been my second home,” Rita says of Manchester.

Over the years, Rita worked with more than 90 people in her office, served six presidents and helped with four comprehensive campaigns that helped transform the North Manchester campus and add a Fort Wayne campus. She started in an age when colleagues wore suits and dresses, and referred to each other as Mr., Mrs. or Miss. Though she remained one of the classiest dressers on campus, Rita likes that Manchester dropped the title formality and evolved into a first-name kind of place.  

Pretty much everyone on the North Manchester campus knows who “Rita” is.

Jim Garber ’50, who led public relations and advancement at Manchester, hired Rita to work full time as soon as she graduated high school. “Jim Garber was fabulous,” she says.  “He had a magnetic personality, which drew people to him.” For Rita, “all of the Garbers were family.”

In the early years, as a direct report to publicity director Robert Nelson, Rita typed news releases onto stencils, which were printed in the College Print Shop and sent to area newspapers. For student news such as the Dean’s List, Rita researched their hometown papers and sent releases there. “I learned the names of almost every newspaper in Indiana,” she recalls, “and always got excited when I went through a town and saw the local newspaper office.”

Rita also typed the weekly campus newsletter, which she addressed by hand for each faculty and staff member. She processed all of Manchester’s outgoing mail and filled in at the switchboard when the operator took a break. She knew shorthand, too, taking dictation from Garber and transcribing his letters.

Technology at Manchester advanced dramatically with the introduction of computers and printers in 1986. “That revolutionized everything!” exclaimed Rita. No more carbon paper, typewriter erasers or Wite Out™ correction fluid. “It was like entering a new job and a new world,” she adds.

She continued to support much of Advancement’s recordkeeping and was a valuable link to the pre-computer days. “Rita was the one who made sure the old ways of keeping alumni records were not lost or forgotten,” says Gary Montel ’65, retired executive director of alumni. Eventually, she got more involved in event planning, decorating for donor appreciation dinners and making alumni and guests feel welcome. “I love the alumni,” says Rita. “They’re just great.”

Great, too, were the opportunities Rita had to travel with alumni on Manchester-organized trips to Europe and Alaska, among other destinations. Rita also joined students and faculty on January trips to Europe, South America and China. “The students are so much fun. They just take you under their wing.”

Ever the lifelong learner, Rita loved working at a place with so much collective knowledge. “That was the best part,” she says. “There was always someone who knew or could help find the answer to most of my problems. It was a great way to learn.”

For a time, it was also a great way to see leaders and celebrities. Rita recalls “the electric feeling in the gym” when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1968.  She was there, too, for Paul Newman, Barry Goldwater and Mary Travers – a personal favorite because she likes folk music.

Ask OUA colleagues for “Rita stories” and allow plenty of time, but Janeen Kooi’s favorite is The One About The Wild Turkey. It was late afternoon and Rita was alone in the Advancement suite in the Administration Building when a wild turkey flew through a closed window.  Always cool-headed in a crisis, Rita corralled the turkey in a colleague’s office and closed the door.

Luck, serendipity or divine intervention, who knows, but a student who just happened to have grown up on a turkey farm walked in. The young man handled the turkey with authority and released it to the outdoors, mitigating damage to some broken glass.  

“The wild turkey incident” epitomizes Rita, says Kooi, director of The Manchester Fund and donor relations. “She faces a situation and figures out how to deal with it, with grace, humor and self-deprecation. She knows everybody, and she is warm, welcoming and funny. I miss working with her terribly.”

By Melinda Lantz ’81