Administrative Assistant Carolyn “Lyn” Carroll once tried to quit her job. It was 1987, two years after she started in the Alumni and Development Office at Groton School, around the dawn of the personal computer. They were coming to Groton School and to her office desktop, and Lyn was not happy. Seeing herself as an artisan, she loved the craft that went into her work as a secretary. The computer, she was certain, not only would undermine her craft but also would compromise the School’s history, parts of which she feared would be lost in the push to be paperless.
A stroll around the Circle with Richard Fox P ’81, then Director of Development, convinced her not only to stay on, but that computers were inevitable. Learning how to use them at Groton, amongst friends, would be better for her and for the School. That was 27 years ago and though she never made friends with any of the computers that have been placed in front of her over the years, she has developed a rapprochement with each new wave of technology. Lyn came to Groton School after raising three daughters, having worked from home doing payroll and taxes for small companies in the area. Her favorite company made grandmother clocks, which stand one-third smaller than the traditional grandfather clock. Working from home fit her needs as a mother, but soon enough, as her daughters made their way into the world, she was ready to work full-time. In the local paper, she learned that Groton School was hiring a secretary for the Alumni and Development Office. From the moment she stepped foot on the Circle, she was smitten with Groton, its history and its people. Her soon-to-be coworkers were warm and welcoming; the place seemed to fit.
During her first interview, she discovered that she already was connected to the School. In her first interview with Richard Fox, Selden Tearse ’81, and head research assistant Nancy Calawa, she was surprised to learn how much she and Richard had in common. They were both from New Jersey, their high schools were longtime rivals, and Richard’s son-in-law had grown up near Lyn in Glen Ridge. It was quickly apparent that Lyn also was acquainted with longtime faculty member Jake Congleton P’93, who had graduated a few years before her from Glen Ridge High School. Lyn was immediately embraced by the Groton community and has been a stalwart member of the development office ever since.
Over the years, her position has evolved and expanded. Initially hired primarily to support the director of development, Richard Fox began increasingly to rely on her to manage the details of the Board of Trustees meetings, where she jokingly was referred to as the Board’s Den Mother, a ceremonial title awarded her by former board president Wick Simmons ’58, P’84, ’07, ’09, GP’12. During Lyn’s first years, Richard would take the minutes at the meetings and bring them to Lyn to transcribe. One board secretary chose not to take minutes, using Richard’s as the official record. Lyn and the board secretary then would spend hours on the telephone going over the minutes, editing and reediting to ensure accuracy and thorough reporting. During some weeks following board meetings, transcribing, editing, and distributing the minutes were all that she did.
From the very first, she was impressed by the gracious and thoughtful relationships that she was able to build with the trustees. Her first conversation with former board president Gordon Gund ’57, P’86, ’89 was memorable because Lyn was not yet aware that Gordon was blind. When she answered the phone, he introduced himself and remarked that hers was a voice he had not heard before, but he would be sure to remember hereafter. From that day forward, each time Lyn answered the telephone, Gordon would greet her by name. It was not until the trustee meeting many weeks later that she learned of his disability. She remains amazed that Gordon recognized her voice from their very first conversation.
Organizing and scheduling trustee committees and subcommittees is fraught with challenges, from making sure that trustees who serve on multiple committees are not doublebooked to copying, collating, and delivering the reports that committee chairs need for each meeting. Lyn seems to wrap up one of the quarterly meetings just in time to begin planning for the next. Despite the best planning, she never can be sure that the unexpected won’t upend a meeting. Recently a torrential downpour seeping through the roof line triggered the fire alarm in Hundred House. The trustees had to leave the Library and huddle on the portico in the downpour, waiting for the official all-clear. Later that weekend, Tim Dumont, the Director of Buildings and Grounds, presented the plan for long-overdue repairs to the Hundred House roof. The pitfalls of deferred maintenance were clear. And there was the trustee meeting that was inundated with unidentified flying insects, not unlike the Yankee game in Cleveland in 2005. Like the Yankees, the board kept plowing through its work, hoping against hope that the bugs would leave of their own accord.
Over the years, Lyn has been a staunch advocate for Groton School, regularly attending concerts, plays, and dance programs. She is astounded at the level of skill and depth of talent and brings friends and family to events.
Though Lyn is a neo-Luddite and yearns for the days when there seemed to be more craft in her work, she is more adept than she lets on, enjoying the creativity of word processing, the interplay of fonts and format. A consummate community builder, she remembers birthdays in the development office and reaches out to members of our community who are ill or grieving. Rarely a day goes by that Lyn isn’t thinking about how to make the Groton community a warmer and more connected place. Groton School is fortunate that Richard Fox kept Lyn on staff, convincing her to enter a detente with computers 25 years ago.