Lu Gillespie, longtime receptionist for Alumni Association, to retire next month
“Hello, Furman Alumni Association. This is Lu.”
Like a comfortable old sweater, Lu Gillespie's warm greeting has been an inviting fit for university alumni for more than 17 years. Through a handful of directors and a historic move from the basement of the administration building to the Cherrydale Alumni House, Gillespie has remained a constant.
But come April, a different person will be answering the phone at Cherrydale. Gillespie, who joined Furman in 1987 after many years in the development office at North Greenville College, will retire March 27.
Gillespie came to Furman as a part-time secretary for Parents Programs and a records specialist for the Alumni Association. But it soon became evident that her true skills were in working with the public, and she became a full-time receptionist for the Alumni Association in 1988.
At her first work station — in a corner in the basement of the administration building — Gillespie did most of her work on an electric typewriter.
“The entire Development Office, with more than 20 staff members, shared one computer which sat in the hallway upstairs,” she says. “We would set up times to use the computer for only the most important projects.”
And while Gillespie's job has remained relatively the same, her work surroundings have changed dramatically. Like most staff members, Gillespie no longer has to share a computer. And her work space in the reception area of Cherrydale is among the most envied on campus.
“The move to Cherrydale brought many changes to our office. We didn't conduct many tours in the basement of the administration building,” she says with a laugh.
Gillespie has worked for four directors: Mary Ries, Mike Gatchell, Shannon Wilkerson Wilson and now, Tom Triplitt.
“All have had distinctly different styles. It's been an adjustment each time. But I've always tried to be flexible and help them adapt,” she says.
In retirement Gillespie and her husband Carroll, who retired from Furman in 1994 after working for 29 years in the Facilities Services Department, plan to live out the American dream: They will travel the United States in a recreational vehicle. The couple's oldest son, Joey (a Furman graduate), lives in Idaho, and their youngest son, Jeff, spends his summers in Alaska.
“We plan to hit the road and just travel for six to eight months,” she says. “We'll visit friends and see state parks.”
We wish them happy trails and safe travel.
Inside Furman is published monthly during the school year by the Furman University Department of Marketing and Public Relations. For story ideas, e-mail John Roberts, editor.