June 9-22, 2000
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Replacing bullhorns with voice automation, Antrobus to retire with a sense of satisfaction

Ann Antrobus
Stephanie Gross
University Registrar Ann Antrobus rolled up her last batch of diplomas in May, a task which she has done with the registrar staff for 25 years.

By Anne Bromley

One of the first pieces of equipment that Ann Antrobus used when she started working in the registrar's office in 1975 was a megaphone -- to reassure registering first-year students that they would still be enrolled even if they couldn't get into all their classes that day.

"There were students sitting on the floor, crying," recalled Antrobus, who will retire June 23 from her position as University Registrar. "We were using data cards then, and when the last one was taken, that meant the course was filled. I walked around with a big bullhorn, saying, You do not need a complete schedule in order to check out.'"

In her 25 years with the office, she moved up from what she called a "Girl Friday" hourly position to become registrar, a post she has held since 1994.

The biggest change she has commandeered is ending that lengthy, tedious process of having students line up to register for classes each year, winding from table to booth in University Hall, in favor of an automated procedure. Now students register for classes by phone or the Web via U.Va.'s Integrated Student Information System.

When Ann Antrobus became University Registar in 1994, her main goal was to see that students and staff would never again have to spend a hot, steamy August day going through registration in University Hall.

Antrobus and her 19 staff members stay busy year 'round. In addition to overseeing student enrollment as "the guardian of ISIS" and certifying degrees -- which includes rolling and tying ribbons on the diplomas -- the registrar's office coordinates classroom assignments, publishes the Undergraduate and Graduate Records and three course directories a year, and plays its part in the new summer orientation begun last year. Until 1999, the office also produced student identification cards, but that function moved to Business Operations, since the cards are used for so many services that come under that office now.

One of their most important functions is "protecting the integrity of the student transcript," she said. Her office fulfills approximately 60,000 requests per year for copies of transcripts, for $3 each. And that doesn't include internal reporting to departments and schools. They keep student records in perpetuity -- 100 years' worth at Carruthers and older records kept in Alderman Library's Special Collections, except for those lost in the 1899 Rotunda fire.

A self-described "people person," Antrobus said working with students has been one of her favorite aspects of the job. "Some of us actually miss it," she said, referring to the old days that included more face-to-face interaction with students, especially when the office was located in Garrett Hall (it moved to Carruthers in the early '80s). Still, the front desk staff remain "the heart of the office."

Antrobus, who had been a full-time homemaker, came to U.Va. in 1974 at the age of 40, after interviewing with a consulting company that U.Va. retained to modernize registration. She turned down their first job offer, however.

"I had no idea what the man was talking about," she said, thinking the "fish" the consultant referred to were the kind that swam around, not the record-keeping microfiche. Nevertheless, he called her back months later, asking if she would act as a liaison with U.Va. deans and faculty, helping to sell the new system. She was only going to try it for a month, but from the start, she was hooked. "It was fascinating. I was learning something every minute," she remembered.

A year later, then-registrar Herbert Pickett asked if she'd continue the same role for U.Va. She took it and said working anywhere else has never occurred to her. It wasn't long before Pickett was encouraging her to pursue a master's degree, which she earned from the Curry School in '79.

Although she doesn't have any big retirement plans, Antrobus, who hails from the Southwest Virginia town of Saltville, will be heading back to her neck of the woods for this year's summer vacation. She and her family -- her husband, three daughters and their husbands, and her six grandchildren -- have rented cabins in Hungry Mother State Park.

Except for other visits to see her grandchildren, she'll probably stay close to home, she said, adding that she was fortunate enough to do all the traveling she'd ever want to do in her younger days.

"People say [when you retire] you're supposed to do what you haven't done yet, so I told a colleague I guess that meant I'd sit at home reading 'True Confessions,' eating chocolate bonbons and watching soap operas." When the colleague looked shocked, she realized he didn't know she was kidding.

On a serious note, though, she said her job satisfaction rate would be 90 percent or better. "The University has been good to me, and I think I've been good for the University. I've been blessed with a wonderful career."


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