Trumbull graduate going strong

Erin Hopkins

Credit: Andrew popik

Verna Williams can’t sit still, even if it just means fidgeting with her watch while she’s talking.

Williams, a 1978 Kent State Trumbull graduate, remembers when she was a student at the university in its early years. As the campus celebrates its 50th anniversary, she still has the energy of a typical college student.

“I can’t sit still, and I don’t want to get bored — I’d probably get in trouble,” Williams said with a laugh.

Williams has worked at the Trumbull Campus’s Career Services and Student Activities Office for more than 20 years.

Her duties include assisting students with resumés and “helping them decide what they want to be when they grow up.” Williams is also a willing assistant for anyone who needs help.

“Who is my boss?” Williams asked. “Everyone. I just work wherever they tell me to go.”

Linda Petrilla, Director of Student Services at Trumbull and Williams’ supervisor, agreed.

“She oversees all of the student activities,” Petrilla said. “She’s very energetic and eager.”

The 68-year-old Williams has traveled to Europe, South America and Australia, and she’ll miss the celebration of her alma mater because she’ll be on the move again.

Williams has long been involved in her community, and it started while she was attending the cadet program for teachers at Warren G. Harding High School when it grew into the Kent State Trumbull campus.

Williams was impressed with the atmosphere at the brand new Trumbull campus.

“It was really friendly,” she said. “The campus was like home to a lot of students.”

The atmosphere convinced Williams to apply for a job opening at the campus years after she graduated.

“I knew everyone,” Williams said. “So I decided to apply for the job, and I got it.”

She said the campus has changed a lot during the decades she’s been involved with it.

“The buildings, the library, the lake — they’ve all been updated,” she said. “We’ve grown.”

John Marino, associate professor of business technologies at Trumbull, said Williams is an asset to the campus.

“She adds a lot of life to the place,” Marino said. “She’s a good person to have around the students.”

Williams said she enjoys interacting with the students.

“I harass them, and they harass me right back,” Williams said with a smile.

Williams said she almost always has a smile on her face because she’s “old enough to overlook the little things.”

Being widowed is not such a “little thing.” But it has happened to Williams — twice.

“My parents were married close to 30 years,” said Charles Sindledecker, Williams’ son. “A death is hard for anyone, but she just picked up the pieces and kept going (after my father died). With the help of family and friends, she went on and continued to work.”

Williams attributes her accomplishments and happiness to her family, which includes seven children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

“They’re all good citizens and great people,” Williams said. “I couldn’t have done anything without their help. You can’t go through life alone.”

Williams said she is competitive but thinks a lot of people would be surprised to know that.

“I took a bowling class when I was in college, and my professor told me I was competitive,” she said. “Apparently busy people are unconsciously competitive; they want to get things done.”

Williams said she has enjoyed all of the work she has done at the Trumbull campus, and the time she spent there as an undergraduate when the campus was just starting.

“We’re a very good campus,” she said. “And the people here are great to work for and with.”

Sindledecker said he and his sisters have tried to get Williams to retire, as it is “way past that time.”

“She keeps telling us ‘I’ll do it next year,’” Sindledecker said. “Next year turns into the year after that, and of course she’s still going.”

Erin Hopkins is the regional campus reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].