Mentor, role model, coach, leader: Those words were used at a reception Nov. 5 recognizing Linda King for 32 years of service to human resources at the University of Oregon.
King, who retired from her position as the department’s associate vice president in October, ushered in sweeping changes over three decades that continue to serve faculty, staff and students today. Throughout, supporters said, her open-mindedness and fairness inspired respect even from those opposite her on the issues.
Rising through the ranks at a time when few women headed administrative units in higher education, King joined the UO as a benefits administrator in 1981, received a master’s in public administration here in 1985, was promoted to HR director in 1987 and became associate vice president in 2006. During her tenure, King:
- Helped develop the Vivian Olum Child Development Center that opened in 1996;
- Introduced an employee assistance program that includes counseling and other services;
- Led the merging of categories for officers of administration and management services, improving equity and streamlining hiring and other processes related to classified positions;
- Adopted programs recognizing employees for years of service, performance and retirement;
- Initiated organizational development and training, which started in the early 1990s with supervision, diversity and other offerings and has expanded to include additional training and online courses;
- And implemented and managed contracts and resolved differences, following the onset of collective bargaining between the state and classified staff in the 1980s.
King’s oversight of human resources during huge organizational growth was “a great feat,” President Michael Gottfredson said, during the reception. “Everybody knows you as a flexible and nimble leader.”
During contract talks, however, King was a stern negotiator. “Never play poker with her unless you’re prepared to lose some money,” said co-generation engineer Gary Malone, president of the local branch of the Service Employees International Union. “Linda has always been firm, fair and consistent.”
Dan Williams, former vice president for administration, said King maintained the proper balance between being an administrator and demonstrating respect for the union. “Her legacy was designed to foster a sense of community,” he said. “She is my idea of what every university administrator should aspire to be like.”
The opening of the child center, which serves the UO community with comprehensive care and programs, was especially satisfying for King and her husband, Tim, who worked in campus operations management. They adopted a daughter from China, Laurel, who became an “Olum girl,” as King put it.
“(University jobs) are hard jobs,” King said. “Having that support of their parenting is a relief that allows employees to focus on other aspects of their life, including their professional life. I really felt the benefit in a very personal way.”
King grew up in Fargo, N.D., and graduated from Kansas State University in 1973. As she made her way through the working world, she developed skills in communication, interpersonal relations and empathy – all of which made her “a good fit” for human resources, she added.
With King’s retirement, Mark Yuran started Oct. 14 as chief human resources officer, after serving in the same position at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. King is expected to continue in a consulting role to Jamie Moffitt, vice president for finance and administration, in 2014.
“It’s really very satisfying to be part of something that helps our world in so many ways,” King said. “I believe in what higher education does – the university is such a vibrant place to work. You can tell I’m a Duck.”
- story and photograph by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications