Photo by Jishnu Guha'13
Karen Kavanaugh started working as Beloit’s alumni recorder in 1968, when a color-coded card file was her main organizational tool and the college used an Addressograph machine to send mail to alumni, just as ZIP codes were catching on.
She eventually traded her typewriter and index cards for a computer, and wrapped up her Beloit tenure working with a sophisticated electronic alumni database. While her methods changed, her mission remained the same: For 45 years, she has diligently kept track of alumni, wherever they’ve roamed. She retired from Beloit on Sept. 1.
“Karen has adapted to more changes than most of us ever will in our careers,” former Vice President of Development Bruce Wyatt said when Kavanaugh marked her 30-year anniversary at Beloit. “Throughout, she has been unflappable, determined, and exceptionally cheerful.”
Her meticulous attention to recording alumni marriages, accomplishments, relationships, deaths, and the births of children, for example, have kept Beloiters connected to the college and to one another and contributed to the integrity of alumni information, much of it published in directories and in this magazine.
“Karen’s dedication to her work, namely cataloging, organizing, and celebrating the achievements of alumni, always impressed me,” says Lindsey Green’08, who worked with Kavanaugh for three years as a student and still keeps in touch. “She always had a lot of papers, cards, and photographs piled on her desk, but I got the sense that no person or story would be lost on her; she just cares that deeply about Beloit, its students, and alumni.”
Sarah Bettinger Kruse’84, Beloit’s former alumni director, says Kavanaugh was always the friendly face at the Reunion registration table, often the first to welcome alumni back to campus. “Karen remembered many people year after year and made them feel they had come home,” she says.
If she hadn’t had a career in college records, Kavanaugh would have liked to work in a library. In retirement, she intends to travel more often and catch up on a few things at home, including working in her garden. She’ll miss her officemates and wants alumni to know that Julie Metzger, her successor and former Alumni & Parent Relations secretary since 2004, has assumed responsibility for managing alumni records. “Julie will do a fantastic job,” she says.
While she did not graduate from Beloit, Kavanaugh became a Beloiter in 1997, when the Alumni Association made her an honorary member after 30 years of dedicated service. Though notoriously humble and happy to work behind the scenes, she counts that honor as a high point of her career.
“I hope I left my mark by doing good work,” she adds.