Not many are able to say that they have retired twice in their career, let alone from the same workplace.
This coming May, current alumni relations director, Pat Voss, is retiring after 51 years in the WGHS community.
First officially retiring in 2003, Voss was hired back to open the alumni office 17 years ago.
“When I took this job in my retirement,” Voss said, “I told Brent Underwood (former superintendent), ‘I’ll give you three, no more than five years.’”
Voss’ job was simply to found an alumni office.
“Well, I fell in love with the job,” Voss said.
Despite her passion for the role, Voss said, “I think I’ve come to the point that to be fair for the job, we need to bring somebody in that’s got some new ideas. It doesn’t hurt to turnover, because either by people joining the staff or taking over greater responsibilities, new ideas come in. I’m very proud of what I’ve founded with (alumni coordinator) Shannon (Daniel), and what we’ve created and made grow, but now it’s time to bring somebody new in, who says, ‘Ooh! Let’s do this instead of that,’ and that’s great. That’s what it should be all about, and let’s face it. I’m 76 years old; I really do want to retire!”
Prior to her growth-filled time spent founding the alumni office, Voss has worn many hats within WGHS.
Originally hired as a social studies teacher in 1968, Voss admitted she had “never been in a public school until the day I walked into Webster Groves High School.” Entirely Catholic school educated, Voss started her teaching career in the community.
Recalling the details of her switch to Webster, Voss was initially questioned by a teaching associate.
“She said to me one day, ‘Why are you working for the money?’ She called Dr. (Max) Wolfrum, who was superintendent at that time. I never interviewed for my job. I’ve never interviewed for a job here until I wanted to be principal. I had to interview for that position, and he hired me sight unseen. I walked in the door 51 years ago and fell in love with the place.”
Although different from her past experiences, WGHS offered a new, enriching community.
“When I came in, with the kids it was the diversity which had not been part of my life,” Voss said.
“Catholic schools and private schools sometimes tend to be less diverse than we are. I loved that. I learned a lot from that. I really was a little nervous because you know Catholic schools are so uptight, and at that point I’d left them then and didn’t know what I’d find here, and that was never, ever, ever, ever a problem,” Voss said.
Following her time as a teacher, Voss took over the activities program full-time for three years.
“They were all involved kids,” Voss said. “They wanted to do stuff; they loved to do things; they are big on community service. The other big thing was they were always so caring about Mother Earth. The two biggest lessons I learned from the kids was the diversity lesson and being kind to the environment.”
Voss then was an assistant principal for 17 years and the principal for 10.
About what she plans to do in retirement, Voss shared she prefers to “stay busy.”
“I’m happier when I’m busy. With all of the connections I have made in the 34 years worth of alumni that I’ve worked with here, and having some very current strong political views, I went to my kids who are in politics. I am going to work, at least from now through December (2020) with the Democratic National Party here in the state of Missouri. I don’t want any big responsibilities, but I want to help in any way that I can. That will fill me in, and then I’ll figure out from there where I’ll go.”
As an individual who has spent decades coming to the WGHS environment daily, people, peers and routines will be missed.
About what she will miss most, Voss said, “I will tell you, I’ll miss the same thing I missed when I retired the first time, the reason there are kids in and out of my office, is I have to get my ‘kid fix.’ I will miss the kids. You [kids] wear us out, but you keep us young. It keeps the mind stimulated. There are always new ideas to think about, new things that are coming up. I feel better when I read the newspaper or do things because I hear from you guys, but so much of that is happening and how your perspectives in that are. I will miss what I’ve always missed. It’s the kids.”
Additionally, Voss said, “And then teachers, I can tell you right now that my best friends I made when I joined this staff, and they are still my friends.”
Throughout her time at WGHS, Voss has seen, as well as pioneered, many progressive ideas, changes and advancements within the building. Most specifically, technology has completely altered since the beginning of her teaching career, now aiding education in unimaginable ways.
About these changes, Voss said, “What kids still want hasn’t changed all that much, but it’s how you get to it.”
Voss then specifically mentioned the annual New York Trip Marketing II and Thrive students take as a classic example of this change. In fact, Voss has attended the trip several times herself.
“By the time you get ready to have a job, it might not currently exist. All the kids want to figure out what they are going to do with the rest of their lives, and that’s the same. It’s just that I’ve seen them be able to do so many different things with their lives. The same basic needs exist for all of us, it’s just that we can have different answers as times change,” Voss said.
Despite her retirement, Voss will have left a lasting impact on the entire WGHS community.
“I didn’t stay some place for 51 years if I did not love it,” Voss said. “I can tell you honestly, in all the years that I have been here, I have never gotten out of bed dreading coming to work.”
This will be Emily Stisser’s second year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.
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