Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, May 2, 2001
Department would 'fall apart' without its fun-loving workaholic, Bettye Price


Bettye Price, administrative services manager for the Department of Biological Sciences, doesn't just make his job as department chair easier, said Professor Craig Heller. "I don't think I'd be able to do my job without her. The whole place would fall apart."

A conversation with any of Price's colleagues about what it's like to work with her loosens an avalanche of superlatives like "gold standard" and "miracle worker."

"I don't have a big enough vocabulary to express all the wonderful qualities that Bettye brings to Stanford," effused Assistant Registrar Susan Maher, who worked with Price for 18 months. Price succeeds at a "virtually undoable" job that includes managing research administration and student services in a department that has undergone an explosion in reporting and regulatory requirements, Maher said.

With more than 400 undergraduates and 100 graduate and postdoctoral students, "it's a big department and she sees all the pieces. Bettye is unquestionably the most hard-working, conscientious, fun-loving, upbeat and loyal person I have ever worked with here," Maher said. "She's the poster child for why we celebrate Amy Blue's life."

Price's capacity for work is legendary. She routinely puts in 12 to 14 hour workdays, arriving at 6 a.m. and taking work home with her when she leaves at 5:30 p.m. She sometimes gets up in the wee hours to get a little bit ahead, she admits, and co-workers tease her about e-mail sent from her home computer, time-marked 3 a.m. Price formerly was the department accountant, and when the finance office gets behind, she takes work home to help them catch up. She loves doing it all, she said.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't a lot of fun," Price said, flashing her high-beam smile. "Every time a grant goes through, I get a kind of high. If I can help somebody, it makes my day."

Price, who said her high energy is a family trait, takes a lunch run at the Dish three or four times a week. "It's my sanity pill," she said. Work at home is sandwiched between time spent with her daughter, a senior in high school, and her husband, whom she calls a fellow workaholic.

An Alabama native, Price came to work at Stanford soon after she arrived in the Bay Area two decades ago. She began as an accountant assistant in the Biological Sciences Department when records were kept in big loose-leaf binders, "like something from Dickens," Heller said. Price worked her way up in the department as it was undergoing rapid technological changes -- and Price always stayed on top of them, he said.

Her skills have landed Price high-profile posts, like chairing a schoolwide task force on improving research administration and as the sole administrative member of the search committee for the new dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Despite her workload, Price always takes time for other employees, sitting down for one-on-one computer training or stopping for a cup of coffee to talk through a problem, co-workers said. "No matter who you are, she's always willing to give you her attention," said May Chin, who works in Heller's office.

"If you think about it, she has the most central job in the whole department," Heller said. "Chairs come and go, but the department administrator is the person who makes it a good place to work or a bad place to work. . . . She makes the environment in the whole department one that's nice to deal with."

Bettye Price. photo: L.A. Cicero