There’s no telling who you might find in Virginia Wagg’s office on any given day.
Whether it’s a student looking for assistance or a professor working out a scheduling issue or sharing a joke, the Administrative Co-ordinator and Academic advisor’s door is always open.
And if the gallery of gifts and thank-you cards housed in the space are any indication, her help has been appreciated by the Brock community over her past 27 years with the University.
Wagg, who will retire this month, came to Brock for a career change, having previously worked as a manager of customer service for commercial accounts at Canadian Tire Acceptance. After three years in Temporary Employment Services, she moved into what is now the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies and has been there ever since.
Professor and current Department Chair Michael Pisaric says that Wagg’s contributions to student engagement and the daily operations of the department can’t be overstated, and that she can’t be thanked enough.
“I think when most of our students look back at their time in the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, one of their first and best memories is Virginia,” says Pisaric. “She has played a pivotal role in our department for 24 years and her wit, warm-heartedness and institutional knowledge have made her a key component of our department and programs, and across the University as well.”
Professor Michael Ripmeester agrees, saying the combination of Wagg’s institutional expertise and work ethic make her contributions “impossible to account for.”
“Whether it is a colleague working through a Workday problem or student who needs just one more course to graduate, Virginia cheerfully offers the required aid,” says Ripmeester. “But it is the little things that I will miss after she retires. Her laid-back manner and good humour bring a positive vibe to the department that will not be easy to replace, nor will her willingness to organize birthday celebrations and Christmas luncheons, to teach people to play euchre, to offer support or consolation when required, or to take a few minutes for a friendly chat. Put simply, Virginia is more than a fantastic colleague, she is also a good friend.”
Professor David Butz remembers when Wagg joined the department full time in 1997, after Colleen Catling moved to a different position in the University.
“Colleen helped mentor me into my first job as a professor, was a good friend and an amazing administrative co-ordinator, and I didn’t think we would be able to replace her with someone I liked as well or got along with as well,” says Butz. “Virginia proved me wrong. She, too, has been an amazing administrative co-ordinator, both in the sense of being really good at her job, and also a wonderful and true friend.”
Butz believes that Wagg’s ability to nurture relationships with individuals in the department has created a true sense of community. “I feel that Virginia, more than anything or anyone else, has held our department together as a unit comprised of friendly and collegial social relationships,” he says.
“Virginia is a low-key person who doesn’t draw attention to herself,” says Butz. “Her impact on the department and on myself hasn’t turned on key moments or any one thing, but rather, it’s her quiet competence, unfailing helpfulness, informality, patient willingness to listen, strong sense of welcome and hospitality, nurturing and supportive attitude to colleagues and students, unflashy thoughtfulness and generosity, ability not to leak a confidence or secret, and willingness to let us into her own life and her large, active and close family.”
Many of Wagg’s colleagues say they will remember her thoughtful co-ordination of birthday and work anniversary celebrations, which she managed through a list that included preferences on cake versus pie as well as whether individuals wanted to have a big celebration or fly under the radar.
They also say they’ll miss her at the lunch-hour euchre games that have long brightened up the department with laughter and ribbing — and helped ensure that coworkers took their much-needed lunch breaks. Wagg also shared her euchre love with the wider Brock community, organizing several successful progressive euchre tournaments at the annual Wellness Day event.
More than anything else, Wagg says she’ll miss the people and the friendships that have filled her workdays for the past 27 years. She plans to visit and already keeps in touch with several former students and colleagues on social media.
She’s also looking forward to spending more time with her family — be it travelling with her husband once restrictions are lifted, hanging out with her daughter and granddaughters, or helping her mother host four generations at weekly Sunday dinners.
Since an in-person celebration is not possible due to public health guidelines, students, alumni, staff and faculty are invited to share fond memories and well wishes online.