Mark Edwards, unit director at Derby Dining Center, shares his thoughts on the retirement of longtime colleague Michelle Netson.
One cannot begin to measure the “Mrs. Netson” effect on Housing and Dining Services simply by counting the number of years she worked here. Michelle worked at Kramer Dining Center as a sanitation and production dietitian from 1976-1980. She then raised a family of four girls before returning to Housing and Dining Services in 1995 as a manager at Derby Dining Center. In 2006, she took the leap from production management to project management as HDS transitioned to Computrition as their computerized inventory and menu management system. That’s moderately impressive for sure! Committing one’s labor and thought to an organization for almost 30 years addresses quite clearly the character of the employee and the effort they expended and the joy they received from their work.
But Michelle’s length of service is not really how we’re going to remember her.
We will remember her based on the extraordinary personal relationships that she built with all of us. Think of the courage it takes to be that open, that vulnerable yet friendly, that compassionate with so many people! Michelle was a friend to and empathetic manager of some of the greatest people K-State has working for them — dining service employees. They were drawn to Michelle because she sought to understand and never judged.
But it wasn’t only Michelle’s propitiousness or lack of virulence that we’ll remember, either.
Michelle loved orderliness. She would say she that she espoused teamwork; I think she really liked Vince Lombardi’s definition of teamwork — “coordinated efficiency!" Whichever task she was assigned, project that she championed, work group that she led, Mrs. Netson would proceed with order, logic, rational thinking, time discipline and well-conceived goals. This didn’t mean that she couldn’t think creatively or conceptualize. She could. But goodness! If we wanted to get it done we needed to proceed with orderliness.
Michelle was a leader and educator of adults, too. She believed in the importance of employee training, not only regarding work-related skills and tasks, but training, which provided people with better lives. She read leadership literature and was the first to share a meaningful insight she gleaned from a book or a newsletter. It’s been said that you lead according to what you read. It was evident that Michelle shared this belief.
So you see, it’s not the number of years that Michelle worked that will be memorable. It will be the successive snippets of personal encounters that we’ve had with a woman who cared deeply about Housing and Dining Services, was proud and satisfied when we did the right thing, resisted with all due truculence when we made the wrong decision, and leaves us now a better, more enlightened, and purposeful Housing and Dining Services.
Thank you, Michelle!