"It's a way of being aware of what's going on, or something you may not have been aware of before."

Photo by Daniel R. Burke


Administrative director,
Accounting Department,
Wharton School
Length of service:
36 years
Other stuff:
While she doesn't consider herself a "joiner," she regularly volunteers for the Wallingford Public Library and other worthwhile causes whenever she has the time.

The Annenberg School for Communication was not even a glimmer in Walter's eye, and the School of Social Work had joined the University just three years earlier, when the deans of Penn's 11 schools decided that the "chief clerks" who ran University offices needed a regular way to exchange information and discuss workplace issues. And so, in 1951, the organization now known as Grammateis was formed.

When Grammateis' historian, Mary Lou Day, began her Penn career in 1962, the campus was just beginning a massive physical transformation. The "chief clerks" had by now become "administrative assistants," and their ranks would swell over the next three decades as the University's payroll expanded along with the campus.

The wave of restructuring in the 1990s has shrunken the ranks of "office managers," and along with them Grammateis' membership, which currently hovers around 25. And the A-3 Assembly and the Penn Professional Staff Assembly now serve some of the functions that were once Grammateis' exclusively. But the group still plays an important role in helping the wheels of the campus bureaucracy turn smoothly, according to Day, who has been a member since 1968.

Q.How has your job changed over 36 years?
Twenty-two of those years were spent in the [Wharton] Undergraduate Division. As for how we did things, the records went from the old manual transcription of grades to computerized records. In the old days, all the registrations were done by hand, filling out the multiple forms. But even since coming to the Accounting Department - when I came up here, there was one machine, it was a dedicated word processor, and it wasn't very good. And of course, there are new accounting and budgeting systems, so there's always something new.

Q.Has Grammateis helped you do your job better?
Sure. It's a way of being aware of what's going on, or something you may not have been aware of before. I can remember when the head of the Library came along, and he talked about these wonderful disks that held so much data, and of course, these were the earliest of the CDs. A lot of times, depending on what it is, we get a leg up, get some early information.

Q.Any other recent examples?
We just had Annie McKee from the [Executive Vice] President's Office, and she has been doing some sort of project for the President, research on morale, how do the employees feel about working at Penn, is it up, is it down, and if it's down, what can we do to improve it. Basically, [the members] tended to agree with their findings as far as workloads were concerned...it's people's perception that more work is being piled on in less time.

Q.I see from your history that some of the things we take for granted, like the new employee orientation, were the result of Grammateis' efforts-
Right. That and the Vendor Fair. ... The Chief Clerks group invited representatives from office equipment companies to come and demonstrate their new products. That was in 1962, an exhibit of office equipment and supplies was held. And then it evolved into a yearly event, and somewhere along the line, it was - not exactly taken over by the University but let's say picked up by the University.

Q.What about the new employee orientation? That's now run by Human Resources. Was there a Human Resources organization back then?
Well, like the rest of the University, nothing is as large as it is today. Another one of the purposes of the formation of [Grammateis] was to advise and assist in suggesting and recommending changes in employee benefits. In '69, Ray Slovak, who was training communications officer, solicited input regarding the new employee checklist and whatnot. That's the new employee orientation part of it. There were some other recommendations regarding A-3 benefits, because keep in mind these were A-3 positions back then, not administrative.

Q.Was there an A-3 Assembly at the time?
Not when the group was founded, no. The A-3 Assembly came along - I don't know when, but I do know when they started up.

Q.It seems that in some ways the A-3 Assembly and the PPSA have evolved as other sources of input for the administration. What's distinctive about Grammateis in that regard?
Grammateis was created at the behest of the University, whereas the A-3 Assembly, and I assume probably the [PPSA], those I think evolved more from the employees themselves.
   The Grammateis organization also has as its mission, part of that also involves community service, which the others - they may do community service, but I don't think it's part of their charter. ... In the past couple of years we've helped out both with a contribution and with some time for the Operation Santa Claus.
   We are always looking for new things to do as far as community service. I know that Ronald McDonald House is always looking for volunteers, and that may be something we'll decide to do in the future.

Membership in Grammateis is open to office managers, administrative assistants and similar staff responsible for administrative functions. Call Day at 898-7772 or Grammateis president Barbara Bussard at 898-6427 for more information.

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Originally published on May 13, 1999