Centennial Story 54: Cheryll (Sorensen) Root (Administrative Assistant to the Director, 1982–1996)

In 1982, I applied for the position of administrative assistant to the director of the UW School of Fisheries. I was interviewed by three people: the administrator, Gary Farris; the interim administrative assistant; and Don Bevan, the director. I remember on my tour of the School (then located at the old Fisheries Building along the Montlake cut) that the tour guide apologized for the rat that scurried in front of us in the basement by the loading dock. She explained that the School’s hatchery was a draw for rodents. My interview with Dr. Bevan lasted no longer than five minutes. I remember telling a friend afterwards that I wasn’t sure if the interview had gone really well or really badly. As it happened, I was their top candidate and was offered the job. After speaking with Gary Farris, I decided to accept the job. It was the best decision I ever made.

Cheryll in her SOF days
Cheryll in her SOF days

I worked with three directors: Donald Bevan, Robert Stickney, and Marsha Landolt. They were all very different personalities, but they all shared a commitment to the School, hard work, and dealing with the politics that came with the position. As their assistant, I was lucky enough to get a bird’s eye view of schemes, dreams, and the plans that came to fruition: to name only a few, the new buildings (FTR and the building the School is now housed in), the establishment of the WRAC, the H. Mason Keeler Endowed Professorship in Sports Fisheries Management and the H. Mason Keeler Endowment for Excellence, and the appointment of numerous outstanding faculty.

My job put me in contact with faculty, affiliate faculty, graduate students, and visitors. I think I must have written minutes equal in volume to “War and Peace” from School of Fisheries faculty meetings and retreats. I also worked with search committees and did the paperwork for appointments and promotion of faculty. In fact, I remember working with André Punt on visa paperwork when he arrived as a research associate in 1992. I enjoyed my interactions with so many of the faculty, and there were some real characters among them. I’d love to go into more detail about that, but it would be too long of a story!

Getting to know the graduate students was an added benefit, and a number of them are still friends today. And last, but not least, I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful hard-working and dedicated staff who helped make the School hum. The staff worked hard, but we had a lot of fun too!

Though my time at the School wasn’t all rainbows, I loved that job more than any other.

Cheryll splitting logs
Cheryll splitting logs

In 1996, Marsha Landolt granted me the honor of taking me with her to the Graduate School when she was appointed dean and vice provost. I worked with Marsha until 2004, when she and Bob Busch, her husband, were tragically killed by an avalanche. I worked for three School of Fisheries directors and, unfortunately, planned UW memorial services for two of them.

In 2006, I remarried, and we made a radical decision to relocate to 50 acres on a mountain about 20 miles from Moscow Idaho. Since that time, I have taken up artwork again. (I was an art major in college and I can guarantee you don’t want to try to make a living at it!) It’s been gratifying, and I’ve had some success with sales, acceptance into competitive shows, and even had a painting published on the cover of a national/international magazine.

I wish everyone at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences all the best as they ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary!


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