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We’re like a family.

JENN METZ | Friday, February 26, 2010

I don’t think there’s any way I can really sum up this past year in a column. Serving as Editor-in-Chief of The Observer has been the most challenging and the most rewarding experience of my life. The paper has so shaped my time at Notre Dame; I’ve sacrificed school work, times with friends and much-needed sleep, but, looking back, those things were small compared to the great sense of accomplishment I received by leading a newspaper through easy, and also very difficult, times.

I’m very proud of my work at The Observer, and more importantly, I’m very proud of my staff. They’ve consistently amazed me with their work ethic, ability and dedication. I will be forever grateful for having the chance to work with such wonderful people.

The thing I’ll miss the most about The Observer is the office itself. The windowless rooms in the basement of South Dining Hall are cluttered time capsules; I’ve found something new every time I’ve been down there. I’ve also found a friend who knows more about The Observer than I can even imagine.

I can’t claim to be the first person to have the pleasure of working with Shirley Grauel. Our office manager for three decades, Shirley has been a constant presence at The Observer, providing us with much-needed chocolate and a smile every time we pass her desk.
Shirley calls me “boss” sometimes, a title I find completely inappropriate to describe our relationship. Though we work together, I’ve come to consider her one of my closest friends: someone I can turn to for a hug when times are tough, someone I can confide in, someone I can trust.

Past Editors gave me different bits of advice when I took over as Editor-in-Chief, but all were sure to include variations of the same message: Take care of Shirley. Talk to Shirley. Go and see Shirley as much as you can.

Shirley has shaped their lives as much as my own. She’s the glue that holds The Observer’s past and present together. And it’s for her that generations of Observer alumni will travel to South Bend in a few weeks.

I can’t wait to meet these people who are currently faceless names to me, to hear their stories, to share our memories of the newspaper and the office that connect us. But more importantly, I can’t wait to have the opportunity to celebrate Shirley’s retirement. I am honored to have worked with her during her final year at The Observer, and only wish future Editors would have been able to meet this amazing individual.

As I take my nameplate off the door and clear my office of photographs and file folders, I feel content. Though I’ve removed all personal touches, I hope that my work will leave a mark on the paper and the office of Editor-in-Chief, that it will have shaped The Observer into a better publication than it was the year before. I hope that next year’s staff will build upon this year’s accomplishments and continue to strive for journalistic excellence.

My mark, however, will be miniscule compared to that left by Shirley Grauel. The paper will not be the same without her, and it would not be where it is today if she didn’t take that job 30 years ago.

When I look back on my time here at Notre Dame, my most important memories will be about The Observer: Seeing my first byline on the front page freshman year; running the News department; interviewing University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh; leading the paper during President Obama’s controversial Commencement appearance. Most all of them, however, will be about the people I worked with — thank you for your friendship and support.

On behalf of all Editors and staff before me, I’d especially like to thank Shirley. You have changed all of our lives for the better, and we are so grateful for knowing you.
Shirley said it best when talking about the indescribable bond shared by those who have worked at The Observer: “It’s hard to explain … we’re like a family.”

Though it’s hard to leave the family behind, it’s time for a change. The thing about family, though, is that they’re always with you, and that’s the comfort I take with me closing the Editor-in-Chief’s office door — my office door — for the last time.