People of the U: Rose Williams
Published on Monday, July 25, 2022
By: Andrea Wright Dilworth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rose Williams’ nearly 40-year career at the Medical Center exemplifies what happens when opportunity meets preparation.
Williams may be officially celebrating 30 years of service to UMMC, but she’s worked for the medical center a combined 36.5 years, after having left after the first 6.5 years and returning a year later.
In those nearly four decades, she’s served the Medical Center in a myriad of roles, getting her foot in the door in environmental services. A former long distance operator who could type 100 words per minute, she’d applied for a secretarial job. When the position went to someone else, she took what was offered.
Three months later, Williams trained as an instrument supply tech. When the OR scheduling manager transferred, she assumed the position, managing 16 operating rooms. When her nurse manager left for another hospital, she followed, thinking her tenure as a state employee was over.
“My supervisor cried when I resigned,” said the Jackson native, who with her husband has two children and two grandchildren. “I came back to work in the surgical suite and loved it. I did OR scheduling, assigned lockers to doctors, acted as an HR liaison, hospital administration, and a lot of other duties.”
Soon, Williams set her sights back on secretarial work, which she’d learned at Lanier High School, where she graduated Top 10 in a class of 269 seniors, later earning an associate’s in an office specialist program from Rice College. That’s where the School of Health Related Professions comes in.
“When Dr. Maury Mahan, dean at the time, interviewed me for a position, I asked what a secretary here would do and he said, ‘answer the phones, write memos and greet visitors.’ And I said, ‘I can’t take the job because it’s too low-key for me. I was used to being busy. So he said, ‘I’ll let you talk to Jack Gordy.’”
After she explained the work she was doing in the OR to Gordy, former associate dean for student services and twice interim dean, he hired her to create a scheduling system in SHRP.
“So that’s what I started doing,” said Williams. “I was hired as a senior secretary, but I was a classroom coordinator. I did classroom schedules, exam schedules, any event that occurred in SHRP, all multimedia and telecommunications and worked very closely with students. I was a liaison before there was a campus-wide scheduling system.”
The Clinton resident has now worked with five deans: Mahan, Gordy, Dr. Ben Mitchell, Dr. Jessica Bailey and Dr. Angela Burrell (current interim). The only dean she has not worked with was the founding dean, Dr. Thomas Freeland.
“Jack was wonderful; he taught me a lot,” said Williams. “He wore a lot of hats; that’s probably why I wear a lot of hats because I worked directly under him. I used to go to other schools with him and assist with recruiting. They used to wonder how I knew all of these programs. I would take brochures and learn everything in alphabetical order. They talked about how well I recall numbers, but remember I used to be a long-distance operator.”
SHRP was an innovator on campus when it came to technology, she said. While she used a typewriter for OR scheduling, she was surprised to see SHRP had a computer. “Nobody had anything like that.”
“When I came here, my technology background was a VCR,” she explained, with a laugh. “Jack taught me how to walk in a classroom and determine how long my lens had to be for my projector screen, and so I could take that apart. Vendors came into this school back in the day to advertise their products to me. When I started putting podiums in the classrooms, people from all over including multimedia departments wanted to see my stuff. For a long time, I trained faculty and students both in and outside of SHRP to use technology.”
Under Bailey, her job title shifted to supervisor of business operations; among her responsibilities are property control, payroll, money management and liaison to departments including facilities, campus police and DIS.
“I enjoy my current role, but I miss the students,” she said of the transition. “I used to call all of our students my children. When students would act up, some of the professors would come talk to me, I’d talk to the students, and they’d straighten up. I was the momma bear.”
Dr. LaToya Richards Moore, professor and chair of medical laboratory sciences, was one of the students whose live was touched by Williams, whom she calls a mentor and advocate. She was happy to see Williams still working in SHRP when she started teaching in 2005.
“For nearly 30 years, Mrs. Williams has played a pivotal role for me in SHRP in more ways than one,” said Moore. “When I was a student, she was relentless in ensuring that we had the resources we needed to be successful. When I became SHRP’s first black female doctoral faculty member, she paired me with essential mentors like Dr. Zelma Cason [who made history as SHRP’s first black instructor and chair] who retired from UMMC with 40 years of service.
“Mrs. Williams is a SHRP legend.”