Administrative Professionals Week has been celebrated in many ways throughout the country during the last few week. In Centerville the annual Respite Care Secretary’s Day/Administrative Professional’s Day luncheon is a large part of the local recognition of administrative professionals and other office personnel.
Although the name of the job may have changed from secretary, and some of the technology involved may have changed over the years, professional and skilled assistants are still needed in most business offices today. Just like in years past though, administrative professionals can still study to become certified which can give them advantages in hiring and automatic pay raises among other perks.
One local resident who went through the process of becoming certified in 1979 is Lillian Aldrich. Aldrich spent many years of her career teaching others the skills needed to enter the business world. Her first job was teaching various business courses back at the school she had recently left, Timberlake High School, in South Dakota.
“It was neat,” said Lillian. “I wasn’t much older than my students.”
She taught classes such as typing, shorthand and general business among others and although she only taught there for two to three years, she did leave an impression on her students. Her husband, Eugene Aldrich, said that when the couple returned to South Dakota for Lillian’s 50th class reunion, former students immediately greeted her and visited with her throughout the trip.
“The first person we met at the airport was one of her ex-students,” said Eugene. “She had a great time for her 50th class reunion.”
Eventually Lillian would finish her Master’s Degree at the University of South Dakota, where she also received her Bachelor’s Degree but she hadn’t completed that much schooling while teaching at Timberlake. Sometime after leaving her teaching position at Timberlake High School, Lillian decided to get certified to teach in vocational programs. She got her certification from the University of Northern Iowa which led to her teaching at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, where she again taught courses to those entering the secretarial world.
After a few years she wanted to teach at a larger school and took her skills to another new job, being in charge of the business secretarial program at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa in the 1970s. Lillian said she was teaching the same skills that she had taught to students throughout her career, typing, shorthand and other business courses. At Indian Hills she would also help place her students at jobs and visit them at their work. That was a very enjoyable part of her job.
“I placed students on the job and then visited them periodically and talked to their employers,” said Lillian. “It was really neat and I really enjoyed that.”
While teaching at IHCC, Lillian met her husband, Eugene, who was also teaching at the school even though both were originally from South Dakota. They have been married for 38 years. While at IHCC Lillian also became a member of the group Professional Secretaries International. During her membership in the group, she served as president several times and she even remained a member for several years after the she moved to Centerville.
“I was actually president when we moved to Centerville,” said Lillian.
During her time teaching at IHCC Lillian also decided that she wanted to become a Certified Professional Secretary, which is today called a Certified Administrative Professional. The process is intensive and requires both professional experience as well as several tests of different skill areas. Today it might also require some kind of college degree.
Lillian and her friend, Ruby Myers, who was a secretary at John Deere at the time, decided to study for the exams together.
“We studied for I would say probably a couple years,” said Lillian. “And then we decided we were ready to take the test and then we applied for the test.”
Both women became certified. The testing was split up over two or three days and those trying to get certified had to prove their skills in several areas including business management, typing, professional skills, professional behavior, and knowing business definitions among other areas
The hard work paid off when Lillian became certified in 1979. Eugene surprised her with a vanity license plate that read 2D CPS, which stood for Toodie Certified Professional Secretary. Toodie was Lillian’s nickname.
“I surprised her with that,” said Eugene. “Somebody asked her one time, ‘What’s this 2D cups?’ We laughed. She had it for a long time.”
Lillian was proud enough of passing her certification that she kept the plates until 1985, when she purchased a different vehicle.
The couple owned two service stations in Ottumwa and Lillian’s business skills were certainly an integral part of running them.
“She did the books and ran the front office,” said Eugene.
In 1985 the couple decided to make a move and bought the Don Elen Motel in Centerville, which they ran for 16 years, until they retired in 2001. The couple say they loved running the motel and visiting with their repeat customers, but decided to give it up when they felt they needed to slow down. Still they loved their time owning the Don Elen.
“It was a good business,” said Lillian. “We had such nice customers. And then they would come back. It was like a reunion all the time.”
After selling the motel, some health issues slowed the couple even more and they downsized again and moved to a new house, still in Centerville, where they say they have enjoyed getting to know their neighbors spending time together the last several years.