I first met Karen Wetherby in 2010, when I “came in through the backdoor” to Ringling College unexpectedly, and she had the challenge of trying to figure out who I was, why I was here, and what to do with me! I quickly realized that for me, Karen was the go-to person who was familiar with about every area and department on the campus. When we sat down to talk for this article, it reignited my amazement of all that Karen understood at Ringling.
Karen had a rich career life prior to Ringling College, starting at Disney in Orlando. Knowing that so many of our students love Disney, how apt that she worked at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center in customer service. From there, she went to Arthur Anderson where, for the next fourteen years, she worked as a communications liaison between global tech and accounting offices around the world. After the Enron implosion, Karen came to Ringling College in 2003, serving as Administrative Operations Project Manager until last month.
During those seventeen years, Karen saw many changes at the school. As Ringling College grew, what impacted her most was the addition of several new majors, including Film, Game Art, Motion Design, Advertising Design, Business of Art and Design, Creative Writing, Visual Studies, Virtual Reality Development, and Entertainment Design. With every new major came new challenges from an administrative standpoint and the requests that came in forced Karen to learn a new language of art and design, and she loved it. Each new department head had different needs so Karen had to collaborate with a variety of areas to figure out what everyone needed and how it could be handled logistically and financially. As Ringling grew, so did Karen’s team, and today each admin supports between two and four academic programs.
When asked what she enjoyed most about her job at Ringling, she answered without a thought: “Working with all the different people over the years. I interacted with an extraordinary number of people and departments, which is a great training ground to learn about the College.”
Upon retirement, Karen looks forward to devoting time to hobbies, family, spending time with friends, sewing for fun, making rum balls to give as a gift to friends, and she may even go back to a long lost love—taking piano lessons. When asked what she would miss the most, again, Karen didn’t miss a beat. “The team,” she said. “The people I work with every day. We had a lot of fun. We tried to find humor in the many challenges that came our way. We laughed a lot and that made for a great working environment. I will miss my team—and Peter’s direction, guidance, and support.”
And without a doubt, we will all miss Karen as well.
Written by Lisa Moody.