The temporary job was only supposed to last six months when Sybil Jones accepted it in 1971. Her husband didn't want her to return to work after a 15-year absence to raise their four children, and although Sybil's youngest was now in kindergarten, she agreed. But she loved the job, the time stretched on, and the OPS position (similar to a contract agreement) turned into a full-time job with benefits.
"It's been a long six months," Jones said of her more than 25 years at UNF, with a smile.
Jones spent the first eight years as secretary in Natural Sciences, where one of her favorite aspects of the job, student contact, was common. When students thinking of dropping classes came to see her and received her encouragement to continue, she was often the only one who ever knew their doubts.
"One of the members of the first graduating class at UNF was my student worker. She wanted to drop out lots of times but I refused to let her have a negative attitude," Jones recalled. "I recently saw her in the grocery store after all these years and she told me it was because of me that she graduated and had a decent job. It makes you feel real good to have had a positive impact like that on someone's life."
Another joy to Jones was her coworkers, who helped the non-scientist with the concepts and principles referenced in her work. "It was all a new language to me," Jones said. "I couldn't have made it without them. We were a little family and we still keep in contact after all these years."
Jones later became an executive secretary in Computing Services, where she remains today. Although there is less interaction with students, she still enjoys her coworkers. "You couldn't ask for better people to work with," Jones said, then notes the department's growth. The first 20 PCs which initially served the student body in the lab now number over 200.
"It's been exciting to have been a part of Computing Services, which not only experienced tremendous growth within," Jones stated, "but has also been a vital part in the technological advancement of the whole university."
The changes she's witnessed during UNF's first 25 years are "amazing and exciting," but Jones adds they are also "bittersweet." "When we were small, you knew everybody and you could call them by their first names," Jones explained. "Now I can walk all the way across campus to another office and not see anybody I know."
The original faculty and staff were such a small, closely knit group, Jones added, that former UNF President Thomas Carpenter held one of the first Christmas parties in his home, with plenty of room for everyone.
A career highlight occurred in 1993, when Jones was awarded "USPS Employee of the Year" by the CARE task force. She accepted the honor with characteristic humility but still shines with pride at its mention.
Lately Jones has noticed that some of her long-time colleagues are retiring, and "I'm on a countdown basis myself," she admitted. "I have mixed emotions. I'll be sad to leave next summer," she added, her voice softening.
Sybil Jones remembers a time "before everyone had a computer on their desk," and when planks were placed across muddy paths leading from the parking lots to the buildings. But from her early years at UNF, she mostly remembers students. Lots of students. And lots of them will always remember Sybil Jones.