The Dean and I | Part 5

by Elouise


Oasis in Libya

I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying this series! I thought it would be over and done with by now. But my mind keeps remembering things I want to tell you about.

Working for Mr. Griswold was an incredibly positive experience during the early years of our marriage. For me, it was a milestone.

I wasn’t yet 25 years old. In some ways, my experience with Mr. Griswold is similar to my experience with Mrs. Hanks, my piano teacher from age 9 through 16. Both knew and accepted me just as I was, yet didn’t leave me there.

As for Mr. Griswold, here’s a man I can trust! That’s so big I could just stop right here and cry my eyes out. They’re already tearing up.

It isn’t about his age or how he looks, or even who he is and what he does. It’s that he’s the exact opposite of my First Boss. I’ve gone from the worst boss I ever had to the best boss I ever had! What are the chances of that happening?

Back then I didn’t know he was my best boss ever. But now, decades later, looking back at the mostly male bosses I’ve worked for and with, Mr. Griswold stands at the top of the list.

Mr. Griswold helped me become the person I am. He wasn’t the only boss who did that. Still, when it comes to integrity, excellence, humanity and trustworthiness, he was the Best.

I didn’t know back then that I’d end up becoming an educator—a professor, and then a dean. I would have laughed in your face if you’d suggested this possibility. Crazy! Yet I clearly absorbed something that carried over a bit from those years of working in Mr. Griswold’s office.

Being on his team wasn’t always easy. The workload was constant. I didn’t sit around twiddling my thumbs, wondering what I might do next.

At the same time, I never felt I was doing it all by myself, without adequate support, or without genuine affirmation from Mr. Griswold. He and my coworkers knew what I was doing and the value of my work. Just as I knew what they were doing and the value of their work.

This was a huge gift. It grew me up as an employee. It’s the point at which I came of age. An adult. Responsible and mature, even though I didn’t always feel I was.

This job also gave me a point of reference. I didn’t read about this in a book. I experienced it for myself! It wasn’t just pie in the sky by and by. It was evidence that a workplace could be life-giving instead of death-dealing.

I’m not saying it was heaven every day. It wasn’t. Sometimes we were stressed out by unexpected circumstances or by unexpected personality issues. Yet I never felt a co-worker was after me, or anything less than happy to have me on the team.

The last point I want to comment on is this. I wasn’t simply a new employee; I was a new wife. Just married! And also, by the way, in a brand new to me location, culture, city, academic community, church, you name it. It was NEW. Heavenly and hellish. Both at the same time.

I’ll say more about early marriage in later posts. Right now I just want to say this: Working in the dean’s office of the Harvard Law School was like finding an unexpected oasis in the middle of a sometimes vast and lonely desert.

When I arrived at work in the morning, coworkers knew my name, what I did, and how to interact with me. It didn’t happen overnight; but it happened quickly.

I needed that oasis. That safe place ‘where everybody knows my name.’ Cheers!

To be continued. . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2015
Photo from