At new temp agency, old school ties stay tied

Unable to stay away from Penn, two retirees have created an unusual temporary employment agency.

"We're not competing with regular temp agencies," said Lotte Gottschlich, 70, one of the two founders of the University Referral Agency. Their niche is professional and specific. They aim to fill only University administrative and managerial positions with Penn retirees -- old pros who know the Penn ropes.

Gottschlich, who retired in 1994, was department manager of pharmacology in the School of Medicine. Liesel Baker (SAMP'57) retired in 1996, but the unaccustomed separation from her work set her casting about for something to do.

"The agency is Liesel's brain child," said Gottschlich.

The two women have a lot of Penn history. Take Baker. She came here in 1953 as an undergraduate. Her first job after graduation was running research labs at the med school. Then she switched to the M.D.-Ph.D. program there, eventually rising to director of the program. Her husband, Lester Baker, M.D., served as an intern and became a professor of pediatrics, and both her children graduated from Penn.

Gottschlich began working at the Law School in 1968. Her husband was a professor of engineering, and her four children also went to Penn.

Both women live nearby.

They made their first placement at the School of Social Work in March, when Pat Burns, who is in charge of support staff there, went on maternity leave. Helen Neff, who used to work for the graduate chair of regional science, stepped in and will continue there until Burns returns.

"We'd love to keep her, but since she retired, we can't do that," said Howard Arnold, associate dean of SSW. "To find someone who is temporary to take over that sort of thing is very difficult. She was well received and accepted, and it was because of her experience, her background and her personal skills."

Baker herself filled the second placement. The Graduate School of Fine Arts needed help clearing students for graduation, but the job required knowledge of the computer program that manages student records. Because of her experience in the M.D.-Ph.D. program, Baker was able to fill the position without any special training.

The new agency seems to be filling a need. After their first advertising efforts -- direct mail to departments and chatting up their colleagues at the 25-year dinner , they got a lot of encouragement, Gottschlich said.

They've got another spot they are trying to fill, said Gottschlich, but they are looking for more professional retirees who want temporary work.

Arnold thinks the agency is filling a real need. "I see a role for them in contributing to the university overall with persons of that caliber."

To reach the University Referral Agency, call 747-0496, or e-mail

Originally published on May 14, 1998