Card office does more than give student IDs: just ask Nancy Tumeo

Nancy Tumeo. Photo courtesy of the OWU website.
Nancy Tumeo. Photo courtesy of the OWU website.

Need a hug? Just go to the card office in the Hamilton­-Williams Campus Center.

Most students, faculty and staff probably know Nancy Tumeo as “the card office lady,” but Tumeo does a lot more than generate student IDs and track food points.

In nearly 20 years at Ohio Wesleyan, Tumeo has held her position in the card office and in the hearts of students. She has plenty to share about the struggles of adjusting to college, dial­-up technology and the power of 47 cents.

Q: So how long have you been working at OWU?

A: I started fall semester 1997. They hired me for three months and I’m still here. They were going to change the position, which they’ve never done. Actually, I went home that summer and my boss came and asked me to come back, and I said, “No, I don’t want to come back.” But, he begged me to come back, and so I did. And, I have to tell you, it’s probably one of the most rewarding jobs, not because of what I do but because of the students.

Q: How did you get your start in the card office?

A: There was an ad in the paper… I was in the process of buying a new house and the bank said, “You’ve got to have a job.” I saw this position and so I came in and I got hired. I really had no intentions of coming back [after the three months], and here I am going on my nineteenth year.

Q: What has kept you at OWU for so long?

A: The flexibility in my job. I have a lot of time off and can carry my medical benefits year around. But again, it comes back to the students. While I furnish reports to every department and everybody on campus, I deal mainly with the students. Everybody has to come through here to get a card, and that way I get to know all the students and get to know all the faculty and staff.

Q: What is it about interacting with students that makes you enjoy your job?

A: I’ve adopted many students. Bought hats and gloves for them in the wintertime. Approached professors to help a student. I’ve gone to see if the student was properly coded for what they’re being charged. Students talk to me. They tell me a lot, and that’s the reason I like my job.

Q: What part of your job do most students not know about?

A: Not only do I make ID cards, I control everything [students] do with that card: security, their food points—on­-campus, off­-campus—accounting, their debit money, library card, replacing the cards. Not only helping the students, but also speaking to their parents. The accounting depends on all my records for balancing accounts. Anything you use that card for has to come through here, and I control all that with this equipment… The equipment is very, very old. It’s still dial-up. The only thing I’d wish for is to have newer equipment.

Q: Are there any weird or crazy ways a student has lost their ID?

A: I have probably heard every excuse. And I think two years ago there were two girls in a race. One had replaced her card 27 times and one 28 times, and I went at them just like they were my own kids: “Do you know how much money you’ve spent on cards?” Some kids just leave their cards in their dorms and they just don’t want to go back and get them, and I yell at them like their parents because I can give them a charge card to eat on, but I can’t get them back into their dorm without a card. Lots of different excuses why they’ve lost them. Dogs chewed them up. Put them in the dryer. Just can’t find them.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?

A: Maintaining the old equipment, especially off­campus. I’m still using dial up communications and we now have seven restaurants off-­campus [where students can use food points]… When the registers go down on campus the cashiers call me. Every time the electric flickers off and on this old equipment goes down.

Q: Do you have any thoughts or advice you’d like to share with students?

A: I kind of see students blossom in their sophomore year, and I see them laid-back as freshmen. They’re scared to go get somebody to eat with them or afraid to walk up to the table to sit down with strangers. Some of them have a hard time introducing themselves with others and they’ll come in and talk to me. I’ve had so many kids come back and talk to me and thank me upon graduation. One student stood in front of me as a freshman and he just had tears in his eyes every day, and I made him come in and give me a hug me every day. And upon graduation he said, “I would never have stayed if it hadn’t been for you.” Comments like that are why I like my job so much. And I still stay in touch with some of the international students that have moved on… Their parents have invited me to many countries, but I won’t go. There’s a girl that graduated in 2010 and she’s studying to be a doctor, and I went up to Johns Hopkins [University] in Baltimore to spend the day with her. It’s just fun to stay in touch with the students and have them come back. I get many hugs. I can’t explain how wonderful it is because I’ll do a lot of little favors for kids. I know how to help them. And they’re like my own kids… They tell me lots of secrets, and I keep them. A little girl came up the other day and she was practically in tears and she wanted to buy a blue book…and she didn’t have any money, so I dug out 47 cents and said, “Go get your book.” I just ask them to do a good deed for somebody else. Now, 47 cents isn’t much money, but she needed that blue book and if I can help somebody for 47 cents and make them happy, it’s made me happy. One year school started and a father called me and he said, “My daughter’s standing in the middle of the university outside.” I asked him what building she’s facing, and he told me, and I said, “Tell her not to move.” I ran out and found her. She was lost. She didn’t know where to go. It amazes me. I always said they should have higher classmen out there with a sign: “Ask me. Are you lost?” Because the freshmen are always lost… It’s just a job that I come to every day and I just take it as everyday work. Other people may not find it so interesting or fun, but I enjoy the interaction with the students.

Q: So do think you’ll stick around in this position?

A: I hope to. I hope so.

Provost, professor and president: Louthan discusses 43 years at OWU

Professor William Louthan in Gray Chapel. Photo from the OWU website.
Professor William Louthan in Gray Chapel. Photo from the OWU website.

Many students know William Louthan as the politics and government professor with a penchant for constitutional law and judicial politics. But in his 43-­year tenure at Ohio Wesleyan, he has also served as provost for 14 years and president for one.

Louthan has much to say when it comes to how Ohio Wesleyan has changed in the last few decades, what it was like to be the Provost and then thrust into the presidency, and what “crucial ingredient” is lacking in American politics today.

The interview has been condensed for space.

Q: You’ve served many different roles on campus since you began working here in 1972. What brought you to OWU back then?

A: My Ph.D. adviser had graduated from Ohio Wesleyan back in like 1919 or something, and he wanted me to teach at his alma mater. So, he called me and encouraged me to apply for this job, which I did. I came here in June of 1972.

Q: What has kept you at OWU for over 40 years?

A: Well, it’s interesting because when I came here I had never been affiliated in any way with a small college. I was an undergraduate and graduate student at Ohio State, went to law school at Michigan [State University], and I taught at American [University] in Washington D.C. So, although I was a native of Ohio—I’m from Akron originally—I really didn’t know much about small liberal arts colleges. I had never lived in or around a small town. But, after having been here just a short period of time, I concluded that being a liberal arts educator was the best of all possible jobs.

Q: Why is that?

A: I think it has mostly to do with the possibility of teaching exclusively undergraduate students, so it’s not a matter of training students to do or be anything, but rather to take people who are between 18 and 22 years old who may or may not yet know what they want to do with their lives and contribute to giving them the kind of education that will serve them well pretty much no matter what they do. I say that and it sounds simplistic, and it’s not something that would ever have occurred to me before I got here. It’s something I sort of learned on the job.

Q: In what ways has OWU changed since 1972?

A: Obviously, the campus appearance has changed a great deal. And I’m not referring simply to the new natatorium, or the new fitness center, or the refurbishment of Merrick. When I came here there was no JayWalk, for example. Chappelear Drama Center opened its doors the first month I was here… The student population is smaller now. The faculty and staff population is smaller now. But, the things that do matter haven’t changed I think. I noticed when I came here that we had an extremely strong faculty. During the years that I was the Provost, I was convinced we had the strongest faculty of any liberal arts college of our sort. And now that I’m obviously toward the older end of the generation of faculty members, I look back on where we were and where we are now and I’m just proud to say I think that among our peers in the GLCA [Great Lakes College Association], the Ohio Five, the United States generally, you’d be very hard-pressed to find a stronger teaching faculty than we have here… We provide the best possible kind of liberal arts education, and I don’t think that’s changed…

Q: You were also Provost for a number of years. What was that like?

A: The Provost is the chief academic officer and the second ranking executive officer. The part about that job that I like and I think the reason that I aspired to do it was the academic side. I think that at a truly strong college or university…there are two things the faculty must be in control of. One of them is faculty personnel—the hiring, promotion, pay and benefits of its faculty. And the other is the substance of the curriculum. Faculty personnel policies should be developed by the faculty. Academic and curricular requirements should be developed by the faculty. Those things should be done without interference. And it’s the Provost’s job to work with the faculty to implement faculty personnel and academic policies, so that’s why I aspired to do it and that’s why I did it for 14 years—simply because I enjoyed it.

Q: Why do you no longer hold that position?

A: Fourteen years is probably long enough for anyone to do it… I was Provost from 1991 to 2005, and in ’93 to ’94 I was acting president. That was a job that I did not enjoy, but since the Provost is the second ranking executive officer…and the prior president left to go to another job, and it takes frequently a year or more to search for and hire a new president…whoever the Provost happens to be then would normally be the acting president. So, that was the way it was. I more or less had to agree to do it, and I did it. Without boring you with the details of what it takes to be a college president and what you have to do if you are a college president, I can tell you I didn’t like it much at all. I was happy to return to being Provost when that ended. But, I was still relatively young when I became Provost, and I never imagined that I would be Provost my entire career. I always expected that I would come back to teaching at some point, because that’s my first love.

Q: Did anything happen during your year as President that still stands out to you?

A: There were no major issues of crisis for the college as a whole during that year, fortunately. The reason I remember it being a very difficult and demanding year was that, while I was acting president, I was also serving as Provost. We didn’t hire someone to be acting Provost, so I was Provost and acting President at the same time. And, I was also on the search committee for the president, so it was almost like a third job…so I just think of those 12 to 15 hour days doing a lot of stuff that wasn’t very much fun. But that’s just the personal side of it… One thing that immediately comes to mind is that there was a student death that occurred on campus, which is always a tragic event, and having to deal with that student’s parents and friends and faculty and advisers…was very, very difficult. It was a suicide, so that’s part of what made it very, very difficult… The most painful thing I remember about that entire 14 months was that student’s death.

Q: How did your interest in politics and government begin?

A: You know, I think it was so long ago it is hard for me to identify a time. I can remember as early as the mid­-1950s not only being interested in elections, but thinking that I wanted to be a lawyer and go into politics myself. And, I was just fascinated by political figures and elections. I didn’t understand a lot of it then. Of course, the way you learned about it back then was much different. There were only three TV networks, black and white TV, and 15-minute to a half hour news programs, and so you weren’t saturated with political news and information as you are in the modern era… Having a law degree seemed to be one of the ways you got into politics, and so long before I had any idea what it would actually mean to be a lawyer, I aspired to get a law degree simply so that I could get involved.

Q: You specialize in judicial politics and constitutional law. Is there anything regarding those subjects that most Americans don’t know, but should?

A: Lots of things. Frequently people will ask me, “Does it ever bug you when you’re either teaching common law or talking to people about common law when people articulate strong positions on the Supreme Court decisions that you disagree with?” And my answer is always the same: it doesn’t bother me at all when people express informed opinions, no matter how different from my own personal views they may be. What bothers me is people asserting facts, history, contents of decisions inaccurately. Clearly, all Americans are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. I think one of the major problems we have in American politics and government today is that too many people, both on the political left and the political right, talk only with other people who think the same thing they do. They hear a story about what the Supreme Court has decided or what Congress has done that’s compatible with their own political ideology, so they come to believe it… But the fact is that they are ignorant, and I use the word ignorant here in a non-­pejorative way. Simply, they don’t have the knowledge. They don’t know, but they think they know…

Q: Any advice for students looking to pursue careers in politics and government?

A: I think anyone doing that today needs to develop a tolerance for ambiguity and, perhaps more than ever before, a pension for civility. The most notable, crucial ingredient American politics is lacking is civility…in our political discourse. Motivation to change the world and make it a better place is a noble objective, but without a tolerance for ambiguity and a pension for civility you’re not going to get very far, no matter how noble your objectives.