Coffee With a Co-worker: Pat Reid
When Pat Reid walked into the book store on a sunny day in 1972, she fell in love with it, and soon after, with the U of M itself — the environment, the people and the culture. She was hired on the spot. Even now, almost 38 years later, it’s not difficult to see why her sunny disposition and sparkle would have persuaded an employer. The director of ancillary services is getting set to retire after a career that’s included not only a position as a book store textbook clerk,but also manager of the book store, a role she served in from 1995 until 2003, when she was appointed to her present position.
She also recalls a stint as switchboard operator a la Lily Tomlin before the age of wireless connection. Now she heads a team of more than 200 employees in ancillary services, which includes everything from food and conference and catering services to the pharmacy and book store to student residences.
Described by others of “having a spark,” Reid is clearly passionate about her work and the university community. (She says that over the years, her passion has transformed from a bull dog into a beagle.) As she puts it, “I felt like I’d found my place.”
Reid: ‘I felt like I’d found my place.’
The key word is “team,” she says. It’s been her own good fortune, both to work with “the outstanding people here” — some life-long friends — and to learn from many others over the years, she continues. “The biggest thing I can do is to acknowledge the intelligent, committed,
passionate people here and strong work and service ethic they represent, and pass forward those values,” she adds.
Reid counts it a privilege to work at the university and she feels a strong responsibility to model the values she’s encountered in others and holds to in her own work. It begins with the staff, she says, who are also the university’s biggest advocates. “It’s important to support and deal fairly with them and to hold to a collaborative vision of delivering exceptional service, while displaying tolerance and respect for the diversity of people in our community,” she says. A strong service ethic, a compassionate spirit and authenticity are things she values.
In large part, her role is one of advocate, she says. Having a position of responsibility “is about projecting those values and demonstrating confidence in what we deliver,” she says. It’s in building trust and credibility; and we gain that confidence in how we build our team, allowing people to learn, giving them room to make mistakes, helping them to grow in their capacity.”
The day-to-day work includes “all levels of surprise,” she says — from being on hand to help out at the book store on busy days (during the fall, there can be as many as 5,000 people through the checkouts in one day) to working with unions and UMSU and developing a respectful and collaborative relationship with them.
The hands-on nature of the job is something Reid greatly enjoys. “Our best practices are developed so that we can move quickly when we need to, and we roll up our sleeves, and do what we have to do. We work with all the on-campus groups, but in a hands-on way. We’re on the ground — often in the eye of the hurricane,” she notes.
“Part of the joy of this job is being able to give people opportunities to learn and work here at the U of M. The kind of support I have had, as well.
“It’s been a privilege to be able to grow up here at the U of M, and the people I’ve worked with here have given me so much. I’m so grateful — it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to give back.”
Q & A
What puts a smile on your face? I love dogs, horses and my friends and family!!
Places you like to visit and why: London, anywhere in Ireland, The Grand Canyon, The Rocky Mountains near Banff, Yellowstone, the Black Hills, Victoria Beach. It’s the spirit of the place.
What is something you find essential or enjoyable to do every day? Breathe and fill up with gratitude. When I make it a priority and have the time, work out.
You are always thrilled to spend any free time: Horseback riding. Sitting by water. Jogging in the heat.
Where did you grow up? Besides the U of M? Winnipeg, Calgary, Moose Jaw, Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg. Summers with my grandparents in Keewatin, Ontario, on the beautiful Lake of the Woods.
Do you have a favourite childhood memory? Horse-napping a horse from the riding stable where I worked when I was 10 years old in Moose Jaw, SK, and hiding him in our backyard tiny, one-car garage. I got caught and had to take him back. He was a black and white, stocky, walleyed Pinto named Rags.
Childhood hero: J.F.K., John Lennon, Mahatma Gandhi.
Goals: Connecting with significant people in my life and working on those relationships. Appreciating the good in people, offering love and support and allowing compassion and tolerance to win over shortcomings and intolerance. Get in better shape. Have time to focus, read, write.
Something eye-opening you’ve experienced: Walking into the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey and having the spirit of the place move me to tears of joy. Experiencing the natural world on the high plains of South Dakota and Wyoming.
Overrated: Misplaced political correctness disguised as diplomacy or protocol. Smoke and mirrors.
Guiding principle or motto: We are collectively stronger and more intelligent than on our own.
I thank you God for most this amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and the blue true dream of sky, and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is Yes. — e.e.cummings.
What do you appreciate or admire in others? Compassion and tolerance.
Coffee With a Co-worker is a regularly appearing column that features staff and faculty of the university. This article first appeared in the May 2, 2013 edition of The Bulletin.