During a 30-minute interview, Dorothy James’ first-person recollection of the University from some of its earliest beginnings was told with laughs and several quiet pauses as James considered some of the questions. There were more than a few interruptions as well.
“I hope she is giving you a good history lesson,” said President Reno Hoff as he passed by her office.
“Hi Dorothy, how was your weekend?” said a student who stopped in her doorway to say hi.
“President’s office, this is Dorothy,” she said with a smile as she picked up the phone and jotted down a quick message for President-elect Sheldon C. Nord, Ph.D.
In the next few weeks the most familiar face--and voice of the President’s office--will retire. James has served as secretary to the president for three different leaders. As Hoff prepares to pass Corban’s presidency to Nord, she too is ready for a transition of her own.
Her relationship with Corban started in 1946 when her father served on the Council for then Western Baptist Bible College in Oakland, Calif. Since that time, she too became an alumna of the University and a staunch supporter of all things Corban. In 1989 she started working in the Office of the President at the request of then-president Dr. John Balyo.
When Balyo became chancellor in 1991, she continued in her position with Dr. David F. Miller, whom she had known since he was a freshman at the University. In 2000, Hoff requested that James continue as his secretary. She agreed, but told him she would retire after he retired as president.
“I told him when you’re out of here, I’m out of here,” she said with a laugh. “I wasn’t planning to be here this long, but here I am at 75, still plugging away.”
James said her position has been built not only on friendships, but mutual trust and respect. Presidents have asked for her opinion on various matters and she said they genuinely listened and considered what she had to say as they made their decisions.
Throughout the last 67 years she has seen 39 relatives, including all of her children and most of her grandchildren, attend the school. Her grandson will round that number to 40 when he begins at Corban in fall 2013.
In addition to serving the President, James has also been a nearly lifelong supporter of Warrior athletics and music.
“I have a lot of rapport with the kids because I attend their games and performances,” she said. “That’s always been important to me and not because it is part of my job description.”
Although she intends to continue as a fixture at Corban events, when asked what she would miss most about working for Corban as the executive secretary, James didn’t have to spend much time reflecting.
“Twenty six of the best friends I have outside of this school are the Board of Trustees,” she said. “I’ve had nearly as much interaction with them as I have for the President. They will be the people I will probably miss the most.”