Judy Fales isn’t an alumna of Olivet College, but she may as well be. She’s worked at the College for more than 25 years, currently serving as Burrage Library director and co-adviser to international students. Judy is also married to alumnus Mike Fales ’75, director of service learning and campus ministries and assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies and religion. Together, the couple raised their family with Olivet College at the center and continue to uphold a family-like environment at OC.
When and what brought you to Olivet College, and why do you love OC?
I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I graduated from the University of Georgia (how ’bout them dawgs?) in 1976. While a student, I worked summers on an adventure ride at Six Flags. I went on to finance cars, work on political campaigns, work in disaster relief, answer a crisis line and even work on a senator’s staff in Washington, D. C. I received my master’s degree in library science from North Carolina Central University at 59yearsofage.
I came to OC with my alum-husband, Mike Fales ’75, in 1992. The University of Georgia has about 25,000 students, so I had never experienced something like Olivet before. I always heard Mike talk about OC and how special and wonderful it was. When I got here, I began to see what he meant. We have a deeply autistic, non-verbal son who used to sneak out of our house. Students would always catch him and call us. They probably saved his life several times, which is one of the many reasons why I love OC.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Olivet College?
From 1992-98 I was the secretary to the president and the chair of the board, but from 1992-1993, I served two women who were both the first women in their jobs as president and board chair. It was very exciting! Other favorite memories include hooding our son, Doug, when he graduated here and helping to found Common Ground in 2000 with Laura Barlond-Maas, associate professor of English.
Where does your passion for library science stem from?
I have always loved reading. I do not remember not knowing how to read. I love the feeling of organization you get from shelving and cataloging (although my home is not organized AT ALL). Also, I enjoy that it is a completely service-oriented job. The motto of the library science honor society is “Consumed in Service to Others.”
What’s the average day in your role, or some of the unique things you are responsible for?
I don’t know if there is an average day in the library! Each day is different and that makes it fun and fast. I am always ready to drop everything immediately and help a student with a request.
When Dr. Don Tuski was president, he asked Mike and me to be the international visa representatives on campus for the U.S. State Department, which is one of our unique responsibilities. We sign the international students’ visas and serve as a “mom and pop” if they need us. One fall, a student from Mexico arrived about a week before the dorms opened and he lived with us. Our sons cried when he left for Blair Hall.
Why do you encourage students to attend OC?
When talking to students, I always stress the personal attention that students receive and that I am invested in their success like the faculty. I urge them to sign up for one of my small sessions on research!
What do you look forward to in your role?
I love Commencement! It’s like a big wedding — people are happy, upset, nervous, joyful — and you get to help the day along and see each face.
What advice do you share with students and alumni?
I tell students to do it now: take the trip abroad, get on the van for a service trip, go down the hall and meet the people in the corner room, take a road trip, join the club, or better yet, start the club. You have the time now. You won’t when you start your career.
I enjoy reminding alumni that they shouldn’t wait too long to come back. The folks you want to see may not be here. Come back soon and often.
What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?
I play the spoons — yes, a musical instrument. I was also the adviser to Kappa Sigma Alpha fraternity from 1998-2006.