With her headset on and glasses draped around her neck, division coordinator Lynn Higginbotham has been a welcoming presence in our Ohio State public health family for nearly 24 years. She’ll serve her final day on Tuesday, Jan. 31, before setting off on new adventures in retirement.
Higginbotham has seen the College of Public Health evolve since she accepted a secretarial position in the Department of Preventive Medicine in 1993.
“They wanted someone who could do mathematical equations and graphics and I had a little bit of that,” she says. “I was the secretary for the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, which was one division in the beginning; they were not separate divisions at the time.”
Dr. Stan Lemeshow, founding dean of the College of Public Health and current professor of biostatistics, fondly recalls his time working beside Higginbotham.
“Lynn has been a witness to all of the many changes that have occurred since we first met. She was there when we became a college. She was there when we moved to Cunz Hall. She was there for at least three accreditation cycles and has navigated her way around a number of division heads, deans and key personnel.”
Lemeshow remembers meeting Higginbotham when he arrived at the School of Public Health 18 years ago.
“I remember her office down one of the old, depressing corridors in Starling Loving Hall and – although there was often not much activity in that corridor – Lynn was always in her office and available to help me learn my way around my new surroundings.”
“When we grew up, we swam at the college pool, played baseball at the college diamond and I took voice lessons through the college’s conservatory of music. We interacted with the college all the time.”
Higginbotham was no stranger to an academic environment when she began at Ohio State. She grew up with her four siblings in the college town of Oberlin, OH, just west of Cleveland. Nearby Oberlin College & Conservatory provided much of the recreation for the town.
“When we grew up, we swam at the college pool, played baseball at the college diamond and I took voice lessons through the college’s conservatory of music,” she explains. “We interacted with the college all the time.”
Higginbotham began her career as a teletype operator at the Lorain Journal near Cleveland before being persuaded to move to Columbus by a hometown friend in the summer of 1974. The Columbus Dispatch had openings and quickly hired her.
Within a few years, desktop publishing became increasingly popular among publications for its efficiency and lower cost. While Higginbotham took classes to learn the new technology, staffing cuts prompted her to look for a position elsewhere. She was pointed toward Ohio State’s printing services department, where she began her Ohio State career in 1977.
“I worked as the supervisor on the night shift. We published OnCampus, we published The Lantern until the students took it over, and we published all of the brochures for the OSU sports departments.”
Once campus newspapers began adopting desktop printing, Higginbotham faced another series of staff layoffs which led her to the Department of Preventive Medicine.
Looking back at their many years together, Lemeshow praised Lynn’s steadiness, grace and knowledge through it all.
“I have never heard a negative word about Lynn through all the time that I have known her,” he adds. “To the contrary, she is well-liked by everyone and I am quite sure that her competence, positive attitude and willingness to stick with us through all these years of change will be greatly missed.”
Current chair of the Division of Epidemiology, Dr. Bill Miller, agrees. “Lynn is a kind soul. She has made my transition very easy, and I am thankful that I had someone like Lynn to help me get to know OSU.”
“I have had the best bosses,” Higginbotham says of her time spent with the college. “I kept thinking, ‘well, the next one can’t be as good. It’s not going to work out.’ I had Dr. [Richard] Lanese, Dr. [Melvin] Moeschberger, Dr. [David] Murray and now Dr. [Bill] Miller. Every last one of them have been wonderful to me.”
As for retirement, Higginbotham isn’t jumping into any plans.
“Nothing! Well, the first month anyway,” she laughs. “It’ll be February, it’ll be cold so I’m not planning on anything. As the weather gets better, my sister and I have planned several trips.” Higginbotham also plans to “spend time with my children and grandchildren, and work on home renovations.”