Linda Bennett, administrative director of our Ethical Culture Society for 10 years, retired last month. As the tributes below show, the title administrative director did not begin to capture all that Linda did and all she means to our members.
‘Just a regular day for Linda’
I’m sitting in the office as Linda and I are stuffing pledge envelopes to get ready for the Fall Membership Meeting. She’s printing out mailing labels as we check that everyone has been included. Her membership list is updated to the minute.
“Gee,” I remark, “it’s chilly in here.”
“Yeah, I’ve called the company. They’re on their way. I told Marisa so if the daycare kids are cold she should know we’re taking care of it.”
The phone rings. It’s someone who’s looking to rent the main room for a party. Linda patiently explains the details of the rental contract. She makes an appoint-ment to show the room and to provide a key. She mumbles that she has to get more keys made.
Now she’s back to helping me fold and stuff when the door buzzer rings. It’s the electrician. Linda leads him to the thermostat and watches while he fixes the problem.
The rest of the day reveals that Linda knows where every item is in the building, which members are recovering from surgery, how our investments are doing, and whether we need more salt before the snow. Just a regular day for Linda. I’m in awe.
I finish the envelopes and line them up in the box to distribute at the meeting while Linda has already started working on the program for the platform. In her quiet, focused, meticulous way she has become the embodiment of caring for our Ethical Society. How fortunate we have been for 10 years, and how privileged I feel to have worked with a master.
Have a sweet retirement, Linda.
Janet Glass, with respect and love
OMG—What will the Society do without her?
‘I’d be delighted’
To define “overworked and underpaid,” one needs to look no further than Linda Bennett over the last 10 years. But she did not begrudge a minute of our often unreasonable demands on her. I personally learned a wonderful phrase from her, although I use it much less than she did: “I’d be delighted to [do this for you, whatever it is].” Thanks Linda, for being a delightful admin director!
‘I am going to miss you—especially on deadline’
Although it seems that Linda can—and does—do everything, here’s what she can’t do: She can’t say no. Some examples of how that worked out for the co-editor of the Focus newsletter:
Me: I’ve got a crazy schedule this week so can we have our Focus planning conversation at 8 pm?
Me: Linda, can you get a piece of missing information on this, on that, on the other thing? By noon?
Linda: Sure. I’ll call you.
Me: Linda, so sorry I messed up on…, forgot to include…, misunderstood the request about….
Linda: Don’t worry. I can take care of it.
I have much, much gratitude and admiration for you, my friend. I am glad you are getting a well-earned retirement, and I am going to miss you—especially on deadline, especially when I mess up.
‘Tireless in her commitment’
The position of administrative director emerged out of a five-year plan to expand the Society and bring greater efficiency to its organization. This new position included the management of our office but went far beyond it, involving overseeing the administration and organization of the Society and eventually chairing our Program Council. Initially, we could not find a member to take the position, and a non-member, Liz Marcus, served us well for two years.
When she left, it became apparent to me that Linda Bennett, by virtue of her skills and her relation to the Society, would be just right for the position. We asked, she said “yes” and how very fortunate we have been! Linda has served our community for 10 years with extraordinary devotion, not only to the requirements of the job but to the well-being of our members, as well. She has transformed the position into a centerpiece of our community life and has been tireless in her commitment.
The role of administrative director has engaged Linda in what appears to be a limitless number of responsibilities both large and small and involving great detail. Among them have been serving as point of first contact for inquiries coming into the Society, creating our written Sunday program each week, keeping our community apprised of our activities through periodic emails, handling rentals, preparing financial reports for each Board meeting, developing the agenda and chairing our monthly Program Council meetings, maintaining our program calendar, handling emergencies, staying on top of all the committee activities and assisting committee chairs when needed—and this just begins the list. But beyond these organizational tasks, Linda has related to the members in a way that reflects our humanistic values. She has not only cared about the work that has turned us into a beautifully managed and flourishing congregation, she has cared about us, also.
Here I want to be very personal. Needless to say, I have been in close contact with Linda through the years and have gotten a sense of her caring. But I have also been a recipient of it. When my wife, Linda, died at the end of August 2015, our president, Janet Glass, set up a GoFundMe site to accept donations to offset the expenses that I incurred when Linda was hospitalized in London and the aftermath. Somehow, I don’t recall how, Linda got hold of the number of my account at my local bank and helped administer the very large number of contributions totaling several tens of thousands of dollars, far more than I could ever imagine or felt I deserved. Many were anonymous and quite a few were from people I had never even met. Overseeing this initiative and making the deposits took a lot of work over a long period. It was an administrative act, but it was far more than administration. Again, it was an expression of Linda’s caring and kindness and I will be eternally grateful.
Indeed, Linda, we are all grateful for your extraordinary commitment to our ideals, to our community, and to us. We are indescribably better off because of your hard work and devotion. Thank you, Linda; it has been marvelous.
‘My good fortune to get to know her’
I worked for a few years with Linda to help ease the huge amount of work she handled. It was a pleasure to work with her, and I shall always remember the many pleasant hours we spent together in the office. It was my good fortune to get to know her and enjoy her kind and wonderful friendship.
‘A standard few will match’
Linda’s sense of duty and responsibility, and her unlimited caring set a standard few will match and to which all should aspire. We have been greatly enriched and are supremely grateful—and lucky—to have her contributions to making our Society work so well for everyone.
‘A friend to every single member’
I can’t imagine calling the Society and Linda not answering the phone. A friendly voice, unruffled at any time. Patient and indefatigable. Organization that takes away your breath. But perhaps most important of all, a friend to every single member of the Society. I feel she belongs to all of us. You can’t measure her dedication, accomplishments, and contributions. She has kept the Society thriving for 10 years. The go-to person.
Linda made me feel welcome immediately when I joined. I’ll never forget that. It wasn’t her job and she was just so eager to help me become incorporated. It’s our turn to show our admiration and love for her.
Aimee B. Kass
‘Some big shoes to fill’
Who’s Linda Bennett? She’s the lady with the big smile who is running everywhere and knows everything! When I think of Linda, I think of her as one of the foundations of Ethical. If I need anything, she’s able and willing to help. I knew as president that I could rely on her to remember things talked about in meetings and keep all those threads going. David Bland, you have some big shoes to fill!
I had continuous interactions with Linda over the years, regarding use of the room for the tuner, or deco-rating for various functions, getting reimbursed, and on and on, too numerous to list. It was always a pleasure to deal with her. She is a totally gracious, always helpful, and nice person. I call her my friend.
‘Linda was there to guide us’
As co-chair of the Membership Committee, I have had the pleasure of working closely with Linda for the last three years. Linda is often the first point of contact for non-members inquiring about Ethical Culture, and she always makes all who enter our building feel welcome. Linda’s steady, calm, and easy manner has helped me to feel more confident in fulfilling my responsibilities. When Diana Gross and I were planning the reinstitution of our Community Weekends, we were not always on top of things, but Linda was there to guide us; she kept track of everything, and this is only ONE committee. Linda has been a steady, solid presence in EVERYTHING that we do as a community. Linda, now that you will not have the responsibilities of administrative director, I wish for you more leisure time, more fun times with family and friends, and enjoyment of the many things that you love.
Susan Lesh interviews Linda Bennett and incoming administrative director David Bland.