Carolyn Hunt, Michael Valentine Smith, Audrey Al-Hamd, Robin Casselman and Jim Hay
Voluntary Separation Incentive Program retirees are, from left, Carolyn Hunt, Michael Valentine Smith, Audrey Al-Hamd, Robin Casselman and Jim Hay. Hoang Xuan Pham / University Communications

They have worked at UC Irvine an average of 30 years. They remember when the campus wasn’t much more than an outpost in a former cow pasture. All have made lifelong friends here. One met her husband at UCI. They knew the first chancellor as “Dan.” They’re five of more than 40 longtime staff members leaving the university through the now-ended Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, intended to lower payroll costs in response to a budget challenge unlike any in campus history. Here, they share a few memories before saying goodbye.

Jim Hay, assistant vice chancellor, Facilities Management. Years of service: 37.

I got a job at UCI the day I got out of the U.S. Navy Reserve. I started working in the storehouse, which stocks supplies to maintain the campus’s buildings and grounds, and as time went on, I kept getting promoted.

Back then, everyone knew everyone; it was like one big family. [Founding Chancellor] Dan Aldrich would take the time to talk to you, no matter if you were a laborer or a faculty member. He was a true legend.

UCI was pretty isolated when I arrived. Irvine wasn’t even around. There was only the little town center, with one restaurant. On campus, there were only the core buildings around Ring Mall. The growth has been phenomenal.

Audrey Al-Hamd, associate director, Student Academic Advancement Services (closed Aug. 31), Division of Undergraduate Education. Years of service: 35 (30 with UCI).

When I joined UCI in 1979, I was welcomed by a group of healthy cows at the corner of Campus and Culver drives, which I – being a Midwestern girl – found refreshing. At the time there was no Student Center. Students gathered at the commons, in their dorms or in the parking lots as they came to or left the campus. Today UCI is vast, rivaling all of the other UC campuses in programs, majors and student life. Its third and newest Student Center leaves nothing to be desired.

Because the campus lacked old traditions, it allowed newcomers to feel their input was as valuable as the next person’s. For example, as assistant director of Special Services, a program designed to serve first-generation, low-income and physically disabled students, I was able to pilot a freshman testing program in 1982. With some modifications, it became the first campuswide assessment testing program. UCI offered the opportunity to create something new.

Carolyn Hunt, alumna and editorial manager, University Communications. Years of service: 31. Bachelor’s in psychology, sociology, 1984; master’s, doctorate in social sciences, 2007.

I’ve been involved with UCI since I was 17. For the past 41 years, most experiences in my life – both trivial and important – have taken place on campus, with UCI people.

I met my husband, John Selegean, while living in the dorms, and years later I walked down the Steinhaus Hall steps to marry him in Founders’ Court. I learned I was pregnant with twins while in my office at 255 Aldrich Hall. One of my sisters had the picture for her wedding invitation taken on a rock in Aldrich Park. My other sister attended UCI with me, and we took classes together.

I’ll miss the people who have been present and meaningful in my life. I’ll also miss the grounds and buildings where I was physically as my life unfolded. But once I retire, I’ll be able to enjoy more of the academic and arts events on campus that I haven’t had time for in the last few years. And because my husband and closest longtime friends will continue to work at UCI, I know I’ll visit often.

Michael Valentine Smith, director, UCI Bookstore. Years of service: 25.

I was hired to manage the UCI Computerstore [then called Computrends] in 1984. At the time, UCI was one of only a handful of universities in the country to have a computer store, but [bookstore founder] Jim Harrod and the student employees were prescient enough to recognize that computers would become an important part of the academic process.

When I arrived, the place was a mess. It had a lot of the wrong equipment. Within a year, annual sales rose from $60,000 to $600,000 – in part because we added Apple computers. Last year we sold $7.25 million of computers and related equipment.

My best UCI memories are of Chancellor Dan Aldrich. He was just about to retire, but he decided he wanted to learn about computers, so he came into the store, bought a computer and took it home. He learned a lot about it. Occasionally, he’d call me, and I’d go to his house and show him how something worked. He was always kind. It was a privilege to work with him.

Robin Casselman, associate director, Center for Educational Partnerships. Years of service: 25.

I’ve held the same post since I joined the center 25 years ago. But there have been many changes. My first office was a small cubicle in the humanities trailers, with rickety wooden deck ramps. Today the center has a large suite of offices in Research Park, thanks to the significant support we’ve gained for our school-university educational partnership work. The evolution of our physical space has been a microcosm of UCI: Under Construction Indefinitely.

The energy of a youthful campus, with talented and positive faculty and staff, helped us create new approaches to student academic development – from prekindergarten through graduate school. UCI has gotten national recognition for the partnership models we’ve established, particularly with the Santa Ana Unified School District. We’ve done a great job of embracing K-12 and community college partners and building awareness that we’re all trying to help students reach their highest potential.