She who keeps the minutes writes history, and for the last two years, Lindi Press has turned the often-labyrinthine deliberations of three major Faculty Senate committees on academic policy into precise historical record.
As academic committee coordinator, Press' responsibilities include creating the minutes and annual reports for the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP), the Committee on Review of Undergraduate Majors (C-RUM), the Committee on Graduate Studies (C-GS) and a subcommittee for General Education Requirements.
Press is "masterful" at translating very long discussions into concise and thorough minutes, said Nancy Kollman, professor of history and C-RUM chair. Press can "distill the minutes of a two-hour meeting into a three- or four-page report, expertly focusing the discussion and summarizing complex debates," she continued. "She touches a lot of important faculty and senate business, and brings her own intelligence and judgment to it."
But Press is far more than the keeper of minutes, wrote the faculty members who nominated her for a 2003 Amy Blue Award. She is "tutor, counselor, historian and rapporteur," said Ewart Thomas, professor of psychology and C-USP chair. Press is a "model partner" with the chair and committee members, said Kollman. "Lindi is my right-hand man."
Press, whose Old Union office is lined with the volumes holding the minutes of meetings held decades ago, also has come to serve as the historical memory for the committees she staffs. Her swiftly acquired expertise allows her to provide critical links to the prior work that keeps discussions moving along, wrote Julie Kennedy, a senior lecturer in the Earth Systems Program. "That kind of input, offered at just the right time, is great for helping us to wrap up a topic that otherwise might have stretched into an additional meeting."
Press said she enjoys reading back through the minutes from the old volumes, particularly when she comes across "names that are now the names of buildings," she said. "I love being a part of this ongoing history. I'm a little part, but I love it."
Press earned a bachelor's degree in English from Stanford and enrolled in a graduate drama program at San Francisco State University that she left before completing because the campus was exploding into riots, she said. "An English major can do anything or nothing," she noted, and Press spent a few years doing a little of everything. A veteran actor and director, Press worked for a dramatic arts company and managed an upscale candy store in San Francisco. She also spent time working for Business Wire, a business news wire service, and as an administrative associate for a civil engineering firm and for a state senator.
Press didn't really like working in politics -- "there was a degree of pettiness that I wanted to get away from" -- and decided that what she really wanted was to go back to school. With two young daughters she couldn't afford tuition, so she did what seemed like the next best thing: She went to work at Stanford. (Press' father, Harry Press, is a former associate director of the News Service and a former director of the Knight Professional Journalism Fellowships Program.) Press had enjoyed working for engineers, so she took a job in the Chemical Engineering Department.
After 20 years, "I was not unhappy there, but it was time to reinvent myself," she said. Press found her current job at a Stanford job fair held in 2001. (She went mostly to tease her boss at the time, who had warned her staff she didn't want to see any of them there.) Press considers her job as academic committee coordinator a perfect fit for her skills and interests -- all except for the early morning committee meetings. "The job really is my award," she said.
This spring Press will reach a goal she had in mind when she began working at Stanford 22 years ago: In June she'll receive a degree from the Master of Liberal Arts program. She turned in her thesis, "Transgressions Against Xenia in Fifth-Century Greek Tragedy: The Unkindness of Strangers," exactly two years to the day that she began work as academic coordinator.
"I've always felt that this is my university. I have accepted a lot of good things and I want to make sure I can give something in return," Press said. "I'm grateful to know the work I'm doing is appreciated. I think that is all we really want -- to be appreciated." SR
Stanford Report, May 14, 2003