A lot has changed at UMBS since the mid-1980s. Three directorships. Thousands of undergraduate students trained in field biology. Countless facilities and technological upgrades (including the advent of computers!).
Luckily, the presence, leadership, and encyclopedic knowledge of Pellston Office Manager Lisa Readmond has kept UMBS firmly on course. For 34 years, Readmond has shepherded visitors through housing and research applications, skillfully navigated an ever-changing billing procedure, kept on top of incoming and outgoing mail, mentored summer office staff, and was the engine powering the behind the scenes administrative work that makes UMBS run.
“I do remember when the first computers came to camp!” laughs Readmond. “We ordered 10 of them. It was the fall of 1988. They were the original Macintosh computers with the developers’ signatures on the inside panel.”
Now, at the end of July 2021, Readmond is retiring.
“I hired Lisa, way way back there,” says Mark Paddock, former UMBS Associate Director. “Like so many employees she moved around and up as her skills and experience grew, plus her conscientious attitude toward her positions and love for UMBS came through clearly.”
Readmond herself recalls her introduction to Bug Camp.
“My parents lived by Hoppies Tavern, so I would see the Biological Station sign but never knew what it was. I was working part-time at a flower shop, and one of the ladies that I worked with was Tony’s (Sutterley; longtime UMBS Facilities Manager) former babysitter! She gave me the Station’s phone number, but I couldn’t get a hold of anyone, so I asked my mom to call while I was at work. She ended up talking to Mark (Paddock) for an hour! There weren’t any positions open at the time, but he wrote my name down.”
Readmond’s opportunity came when then director David Gates’ postdoctoral researcher, Jim Webber, needed last minute summer help. Paddock called Readmond, she interviewed with Webber, and got the job on her 25th birthday.
After spending the summer as Webber’s field tech, former UMBS Resident Biologist Bob Vande Kopple recognized her aptitude and hired her to work in the stock room.
“I started working for Bob, but Mark saw the writing on the wall and knew that the office needed winter help. He then asked me to start working at the office during the winter, and for Bob during the summer.”
Readmond's presence in UMBS mission control proved invaluable. In 1991, she was promoted to full-time Pellston office manager and has since been the go-to authority on all things administrative at Bug Camp.
“When I first started, I remember thinking how cool it was to get a job here, because it’s such a neat place. When I went around with Bob and got to know the property it just reinforced how amazing everything is... and still is.”
Paddock recognizes the critical role Readmond played in maintaining a central hub for camp administration.
“For decades Lisa was the nerve center of camp, especially during the non-summer months. When you called the office phone number it was her nice voice that answered, a voice knowledgeable about all things UMBS. It was to her office you went: staff, students, researchers, visitors, alumni, mail, deliveries and former staff like me.”
Though she appreciates the energy and excitement of field season, Readmond maintains a special fondness for the winter office in Stockard Lakeside Lab.
“I love the winter office. The view, the bird feeders, the snow. And everyone knows I love the sunrises over the lake.”
In addition to her many professional contributions, Readmond is known as a dear and loyal friend to many a Bug Camper. She credits wonderful colleagues and the daily coffee break with creating a sense of family. Paddock confirms:
“For the last 30 years of my life after I retired, Lisa was always there for me. I shall forever miss her warm responses to me and being there at my weekly Wednesday coffee time with staff in her office. Essentially, Lisa was ‘Bug Camp’ to thousands who called and stopped in. What a loss for our beloved UMBS!”
As for Readmond, she expresses gratitude as she reflects on her career.
“I always knew I was lucky to work here,” she says. “I never took it for granted. I loved meeting all the interesting people from everywhere. Having meals with them, keeping in touch during the off season… Whenever I see an interesting plant or bug, I know who to ask, and they’re always just as excited as I am.”
One story in particular comes to mind as she looks back on her career.
“My first summer working on Dr. Gates’ project, there was a camp open house in July. My dad and I went to it. We both thought it was really cool -- visiting the classrooms, seeing the collections, using microscopes, talking with the professors and students. At the end of the day, as we walked back to our car through Blissville and up behind the Biotron where we parked, my dad said to me ‘I think you've found your niche in life.’ Little did I know I'd still be at UMBS 34 years later!”
In retirement, Readmond plans to enjoy travel, crafting, and life on her own time. She also looks forward to returning to Bug Camp -- this time, as a guest herself.
“It will be wonderful to come back in the future and not have the urgency. I will be able to come back and visit and just enjoy this special place.”