A Heart for Service
Executive Assistant Anne Enderby is retiring after supporting the school and four deans over 23 years
In January, the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) will bid adieu to its longest-serving staff member: Executive Assistant to the Dean Anne Enderby, who is retiring after serving the school and four of its deans over 23 years.
Enderby was executive assistant to Dean Catherine Alter, Interim Dean Christian Molidor, Dean James Herbert Williams, and current Morris Endowed Dean and Professor Amanda Moore McBride, managing their busy calendars, providing executive support, and coordinating the faculty hiring, promotion, tenure and reappointment processes. She also served as president of the DU Staff Advisory Council and on the University’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council. Colleagues describe her as a consummate professional, bringing a sense of decorum, dignity and grace to the role and nurturing the school’s sense of community.
“She’s so good on detail and planning and has a wonderful skill at collaborative work with other people to get the foundational work done,” says Alter, a dean emeritus. “She’s very, very skillful.”
Executive assistant roles are notoriously demanding. How did Enderby succeed for so long? “Each dean is a different person — it’s like getting a new job. I viewed it as an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things and bringing a fresh view of the school,” Enderby says. “I’ve enjoyed the job and the people I’ve worked with. It’s been easy to stay because of the people and the work being done.”
Supporting GSSW’s Growth
When Alter interviewed Enderby for the executive assistant job, “She said to me, ‘I’m the person you need.’” That self-confidence was well earned, and Alter and Enderby turned out to be a perfect match. “I see the broad picture and would see where I wanted to take the school and what we needed to do to get there, and Anne took care of me. She made things easy for me, and that’s why I could get so much done.”
Highlights of Alter’s tenure included founding the Four Corners MSW Program, completion of the school’s first comprehensive strategic planning and budgeting process, and an $11 million capital campaign that resulted in the school’s current home, Craig Hall. “Anne did much of the background work that no one sees but that is essential to accomplishing what we needed to do,” Alter says. The construction of Craig Hall “wouldn’t have happened without Anne.”
“Anne was a stellar member of the GSSW staff, and she had a plethora of knowledge. She had a good relationship at all levels of the University, right up through the chancellor’s office,” recalls former Assistant Dean of Operations Linda Clark, who is now retired. “She’ll be tough to replace as a staff member and a friend. She is a great friend to the school.”
A Purpose-Driven Life
When Enderby first interviewed at GSSW, she had no idea what social work was. Like many, “I had the view of social welfare and not much else.” But what she found at the school and in its people was a shared commitment to social justice and the greater good.
“I really connected into social work as a profession and the work being done in the community and world,” Enderby says. “I found it easy to connect to those values and ethics because they were deeply rooted in me already.”
Enderby spent her early life in a small nickel-mining town in northern Manitoba, where her father worked as a geologist. When her family arrived in Thompson at that time, there were no paved streets, no streetlights, and one general store. The tallest building was three stories — anything larger would sink into the permafrost. Enderby describes her mother as the “town’s hostess” who hosted teas to welcome new families. “Being in a small frontier town, I saw people welcoming, helping.” Enderby applied those values to her work at GSSW.
“I know what it feels like to be the stranger in the room, with all the moving I did in my 20s,” Enderby says. “I know what it feels like to be the new person who doesn’t know what to do. That’s part of my conscious effort to help people feel included and comfortable and ease that transition.”
Her father was transferred to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when Enderby was in high school. After attending university, Enderby moved to New York City “with two suitcases and not much else.” Working and traveling as a professional diction and dialects coach, she ended up at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts on contract with the National Theatre Conservatory and stayed in the Mile High City. “I have lived all over the U.S., but Colorado was the first place that felt like home.” GSSW became family.
Field Faculty and Professor of the Practice Michele Sienkiewicz has worked with Enderby since 2003 and describes her as an unsung hero of the school. “Anne has always really loved the mission and loved social work,” Sienkiewicz says. “She is the cheerleader of the building. She would clean the kitchen, notice people’s birthdays, do the things that create community.”
Enderby also serves as an ambassador for the school. “My first memories of Anne were in my interview process,” recalls Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development Jenn Bellamy. “She coordinated the visit and was my welcoming person. Even before I arrived, she was such a gracious, welcoming host for the school.”
“Academia is so full of quirky people. Anne can navigate relationships across a broad range of people, and that’s pretty magical. Not a lot of folks have that skill,” Bellamy adds. “That, paired with her deep knowledge of systems and how higher ed works and how DU works, she’s built that expertise over time and can draw upon those experiences, knowledge and relationships to keep up with all the dynamic demands of the position with her door open to people just coming by.”
Like Alter, Williams describes Enderby as a perfect teammate. “When I came in, I had been an associate dean but had never been in a role where I was the leader of a school,” says Williams, a dean emeritus. “She really supported my growth.”
“She was very supportive of people at the school, very supportive of staff, very supportive of how the school fits within the campus,” Williams adds. “She saw herself as a representative of the school and the dean’s office. By viewing herself in that role and taking on those responsibilities, the school benefitted.”
Enderby has also remained a key point of contact between retired faculty and staff and the school, says Professor Emeritus Jean East, MSW ’79, PhD ’95. “She was very good at keeping us in the loop. She was really thoughtful about that, and we appreciated it.”
“She saw her role as significant and could make a difference, and she was determined to do so,” East adds.
After decades of taking care of others, Enderby says she is going to focus on herself for a while. “I plan on sleeping, reading, eating, going to the gym, and repeating that.” She and her husband, David, also plan to travel, including an upcoming Caribbean cruise.
Enderby plans to continue her legacy of service. She’ll remain active in her faith community at Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral, cuddle cats at a no-kill animal shelter, and volunteer at a local agency serving people in need. “I have so much privilege — the privilege of retiring, the safety and comfort of a home and family,” Enderby says. “I never had to worry about a roof over my head because my parents literally built it. There are so many people who don’t have that.”
It’s no wonder Enderby has fit so well at GSSW. “Even though I’m not a social worker, being able to support the profession and the growth of the school has been awesome. It’s brought a strong purpose to my life and one that supports who I am,” Enderby says.
“It’s been a wonderful journey to watch the school and faculty and staff as they grow,” Enderby adds. “I’m really proud of who we are, who we’ve been and who we’re becoming.”