By Taylor Viles – Sports Editor
At the end of January, President Alexander announced via email that longtime Lasell employee, Kate O’Connor was retiring following the 2020-2021 academic year.
O’Connor, currently Vice President for Enrollment Management, devoted 34 years to the Lasell community. She’s headed multiple departments, mentored hundreds of students, and overseen many of the changes and improvements on the Lasell campus.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said President Michael Alexander when O’Connor told him of her decision at a meeting over winter break. “She’s been talking about it with me for several years…so I knew it was coming.”
Lasell launched a search committee – meeting for the first time on February 23 – to find someone capable of undertaking some of O’Connor’s responsibilities. The university will also hire an external search committee to assist the broad search.
Replacing O’Connor won’t be easy as her responsibilities are endless. She oversees the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Marketing and Communications, the Registrar’s Office, Financial Aid, Athletics, and Institutional Research, on a daily basis.
“We don’t think we can find another Kate,” President Alexander admitted. According to the President, the committee will consider whether some of her responsibilities might shift to other departments to accommodate the new hire. He also did not rule out promoting from within.
First arriving at Lasell in 1987, O’Connor’s position has grown around her. She began as the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid appointed by former Lasell President Peter Mitchell. It was supposed to be a six-month stay, but O’Connor never left.
According to O’Connor, it’s not the positions she has held that make her role at Lasell worth it. “People at Lasell care,” she said.
One of those people is Associate Director of Admissions Emily Stanley, who has worked under O’Connor for almost three years. She says O’Connor has helped instill a sense of confidence in her. “She believed I could do things that I would have previously thought impossible,” said Stanley. “Because of her, my career is on a new and exciting trajectory. That’s the power of Kate – if she wills it, it will happen.”
Coworkers like Stanley give O’Connor comfort in her decision to leave. “I’ve come to a place in my life where I have a great team, they know what they’re doing,” she said. O’Connor says a driving force in her retirement decision is to spend more time with her 97-year-old mother.
Some of O’Connor’s favorite memories at Lasell are the connections she’s shared with students. Many were sparked by her golden retriever, Caper, who sat on the floor beside her at work for 13 years. She met many students and built relationships with them through Caper.
Helping these students succeed provided an additional reason to come to work every day. “There’s nothing better than sitting on the stage at Commencement and watching a student go across who needed that extra piece,” O’Connor said. “You can say, ‘I had a little piece in that.’”
If it wasn’t Caper who drew the Lasell community into her workspace, it was the history and memorabilia found on every wall of her office in Potter House. O’Connor is so entranced by Lasell’s history, she began a collection of its pictures and artifacts.
As retirement lies ahead, O’Connor is looking forward to free time and not needing to drive to Auburndale every morning. When asked what she is most excited for, she said, “Oh, golly, the opportunity to read a book.” She also loves the outdoors and is hoping to rekindle her love of hiking.
O’Connor deserves to retire, says Director of Admission Yavuz Kiremit, but confesses it’s not easy to see her go. “Kate’s retirement is an enormous loss for Lasell, but I am so happy for her,” he said. “I hope she can spend some time relaxing on the Cape [and] playing golf.
As she reflects on her career at Lasell, O’Connor can’t help but smile at what she accomplished. “I know I’ve made a difference here,” she said. “But there’s nothing that wouldn’t have been here without a lot of other people making it happen. I take pride in what the institution has become.”