By Belen Edwards
Doretha Moore started working as the Administrative Secretary for Housing and Residence Life (HRL) in 1976. After spending 1977 in Texas, she returned to UChicago in 1978 and has been working in HRL ever since.
In these forty-one years, Moore has witnessed the University change in a way that few have. “I almost need to give myself a campus tour,” she said. “There are so many new buildings—I have seen four dorms be built.” She has also seen UChicago transition through four presidents, six directors of HRL, dozens of assistant directors of Housing, and, she estimates, around three thousand resident assistants.
“It’s crazy, watching people who have been students. I’ve seen them as undergraduate students, I’ve seen them as graduate students, I’ve seen them become Deans of the Divinity School or step into positions all over campus. I’ve seen them get married, I’ve seen them have their children, and I’ve thought ‘This is just like Mother Goose!’ It’s like one big family,” Moore said.
Not only has the University changed during Moore’s time here; her position has changed as well. “My job description today is not the same as it was over twenty years ago, and that’s because of technology,” Moore said. “I realized that everything I did used to be a piece of paper—if you wanted to have a room change there was a card. Now that can be done online.”
Moore went to school at Chicago Vocational Career Academy, where her vocational area was office practice. “You were taught how to do everything clerical,” Moore said. “I knew how to file, how to use office machines, how to type, and that’s why I ended up in this profession.”
After Chicago Vocational, Moore attended the University of Illinois Champaign for one-and-a-half years. She returned home to help her mother and began working at HRL. “With me being fresh out of college, having been a college student myself, having lived in a dorm and off campus, I could really relate to the students here because I had been one,” Moore said.
Currently, Moore describes what she does as a kind of triage. “Most of what I do is triage the front desk, the telephone, and talk to parents,” she said. Moore is the first person people see when they walk into the HRL offices in Campus North, greeting them with a smile and ready to answer any of their questions.
Even after working at UChicago for forty-one years, Moore is still discovering and experiencing new facets of the University’s culture. She witnessed the starts of Kuvia in 1983 and Scav in 1987. In more recent years, she saw the annual Polar Bear Run for the first time and got to walk behind the freshman processional from Rockefeller to Hull Gate. “Going through the gate and seeing all the kids screaming and banging on drums —that was really something. I enjoyed that a lot,” Moore said.
Other standout memories for Moore include the Alice W. Chandler Staff Service Recognition Ceremonies, which recognize members of the University staff who have worked at the University for five, ten, fifteen, twenty years and so on. For Moore’s fortieth anniversary of working at UChicago, HRL threw her a surprise party. Former Directors of Housing and Residence Life Katie Callow Wright, Ana Campos, and Sherry Gutman attended to support Moore.
“These are the most wonderful people I’ve ever worked with,” said Moore of the HRL staff. “It’s like being the Fairy Godmother, and I think it’s what keeps you going. You should never work at a place where you’re unhappy. When you wake up in the morning, you should feel good about going to work. That’s another thing that keeps me here.”