Grace Schetley’s Neighborhood

Issue Date: 
April 14, 2014

WhenGrace Schetley Grace Schetley began her job at the University of Pittsburgh on March 14, 1967, she brought with her no expectations beyond making a little money and gaining some experience.

Fast-forward to last month when Schetley retired after 47 years of working in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). She is the longest-serving staff member in the school’s history and one of the longest-serving at Pitt as a whole.

“To put Grace’s career at our school in a very Pittsburgh perspective,” said GSPIA Dean John Keeler at Schetley’s retirement ceremony on March 27, “the year she started at Pitt the Steelers were 4-9-1 and 7 years away from their first Super Bowl. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood debuted on public television one year after Grace joined the GSPIA staff and lasted for only 33 years. For the last 47 years, GSPIA has been Grace Schetley’s Neighborhood.”

And the University neighborhood has seen many changes. Professor Joseph James, the first faculty member with whom Schetley worked, retired almost 30 years ago. Chancellors and GSPIA deans have assumed office and then departed or retired.  Students have come and gone.

And in that time, Schetley herself went from transcribing tapes from a Dictaphone machine to overseeing payroll and making budget decisions, representing GSPIA on the University’s Human Resources Liaison Committee, and assisting with scheduling graduate courses.   

Schetley laughs, trying to recall her mindset when she began working at Pitt.

“First of all, when you start out, you’re 18. You never think you’re going to work 47 years, much less in one place. To think you would stay that long is mind-boggling,” said Schetley, who joined Pitt’s employ while a senior at East Liberty’s Peabody High School. The school permitted seniors with open periods at the end of the day to leave school to work. Schetley landed a job as a clerk typist at Pitt’s Institute for Local Government, part of GSPIA.

After high school graduation, GSPIA hired her as a full-time secretary. Happy to have a job, she had no inkling that a career destined to last almost five decades was already well under way.

The Institute of Local Government disbanded in 1974, and its faculty and staff were integrated into GSPIA.

Schetley learned on the job, with each promotion offering new challenges—managing staff, assisting with faculty searches and performance reviews, learning the school’s accounting system, assisting with personnel and payroll, and others.

“I learned a lot. My colleagues were very helpful—and very patient,” she said.

Schetley knows her career path is unusual. She retired on the same day as her husband of 36 years, Dan, who worked as an engineer for four different companies.

“I have friends who have moved from job to job to job. That’s fine for them, but I enjoyed my time. It says a lot for the school when you stay that length of time,” Schetley said.

“People point out to me that the whole time I’ve been at Pitt, it has been in GSPIA. But I had many different positions. It never got boring,” she said.

She and her husband live in Shaler Township and have no specific plans for their life in retirement.

“I really did enjoy working there,” Schetley said. “It was funny, on my last day, as happy as I was for retirement, I had moments of, ‘Wow, this is it.’”

She expects to miss seeing her many friends in GSPIA and throughout the University on a daily basis.

As for Dean Keeler, he acknowledges that Schetley will be literally impossible to replace. “Unfortunately I am not allowed to give HR a job description requiring that applicants have 47 years of institutional memory and experience working with every dean in the history of the school.”