Tracy Williams: 42 Years and Still Going Strong
Tracy Williams was ready to get out in the real world, out of her parents’ house and start her own life. That meant finding an apartment and buying the car of her dreams.
It also meant making some changes at work. She had spent two years as a part-time employee at St. Louis Community College, but to move into the next phase of adulthood, Williams needed a full-time job. She went to her boss, the late Thomas Riethmann, and requested she be made full time.
Forty-one years later, Williams remains at the College in the department where she started as a part-timer. In all, she’s celebrating 42 years this year at STLCC and has no plans to walk away anytime soon.
“I’m honestly not even thinking about it,” said Williams, who now serves as the assistant to the registrar and coordinator of student records. “Everybody asks me, because I have the years in (to receive full pension benefits), why I don’t retire. I don’t want to say I’m going for 50 (years), because I don’t think I am. It’s just that as long as I can enjoy being here, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
One Constant -- Dedication
Williams has had only one other employer in her adult life. She took a job just out of high school and stayed for a year before the company released nearly all of its employees.
She found the stability she sought at STLCC. Her mom, JoAnn Claywell, worked at the College in 1978 and retired in 2002. When her daughter needed a job in 1981, she suggested Williams apply for a part-time position in what was then known as central student records.
“I enjoyed working for the College and I thought she’d like it too,” Claywell said. “Obviously, she did.”
Williams got the job and remains in the same department, now known as the registrar’s office, to this day.
Her duties have naturally changed in the four decades she’s been around, and she’s had upwards of a dozen supervisors. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication Williams has displayed throughout her tenure.
Among the many constants during Williams’ time at STLCC is her dedication to the students. While she isn’t in daily contact with current students, her role in the registrar’s office affords her the opportunity to work with students nearing graduation or who have graduated but need help with getting transcripts or a diploma.
She treats each request as if it’s the most important thing she’s doing that day. She makes certain the student or a graduate is taken care of and that everything is in perfect order to help make their lives a bit easier.
Williams also loves meeting people in the community who graduated from STLCC or who are current students. She is certain to ask about their experiences with the College and if there’s anything they might need that she could help them with.
“I take so much pride and sometimes people don’t understand that,” she said. “Even sending out a diploma to a student, if the address label doesn’t look right, I fix it because everything that goes out represents the College.
“I’ve always been proud to represent the College.”
Unrivaled Work Ethic
While she worked under Riethmann the longest – he retired in 2002 – Williams might have grown closest with Melanie Stegeman, who was with the College from 2016-2022.
Now at Washington University in St. Louis, Stegeman said she couldn’t begin to speak highly enough about Williams, how well she represented the College and how much she could be depended upon for whatever was needed.
“Her contributions to the College have been and will be felt for decades,” Stegeman said. “Tracy’s work ethic is unrivaled – she seeks out projects, she is focused on improvements, and she is student centric.
“Outside of her work ethic and the value she gave to my role as registrar, Tracy provided supreme customer service for our students. Tracy always goes the extra mile for students, making sure they have everything they need to be successful in solving a problem or seeking out information. Whether she knows it or not, she is the reason that many of our students have succeeded in their educational journeys.”
Memories from Firebird to Softball Fields
Williams has many fond memories from the past four decades.
The highlight, she said, was the birth of her daughter Brittany. Now 27, Brittany Williams is a physician assistant for a vascular surgery group.
But there were also many great memories associated with working for the College. Of course, there was the 1983 red Pontiac Firebird with a T-top that she bought after securing the full-time job.
She received her associate degree in criminal justice and law enforcement in 1992, although she chose not to pursue that field. She did, however, enjoy going to the firing ranges with the campus police officers.
She was also a highly coveted employee for the softball teams that each campus, including Corporate College, fielded in the 1980s. Though she worked in a district-wide role, her loyalty was with the Forest Park campus for which she was the pitcher.
She loves most sports, but softball provided so many great memories of her and her late father, Patrick Claywell, working in the backyard on her skills. Claywell spent nearly six decades as a high school educator and coach. Though he never coached his daughter in school, he spent hours with her at home honing her skills.
The dedication she showed as a high school athlete is the same dedication she’s demonstrated for 42 years at the College.
“She’s a very trusting, loyal person and she loves being helpful,” JoAnn Claywell said. “That’s why she enjoys doing the work she does. When someone is needing information to get all the paperwork and everything they need for graduation, she goes way above wanting to help. She’s always been that way. “
Claywell added: “I’m prejudice, but I think she’s one of a kind. “