In 1964 the Beatles occupied the top two spots on Billboard magazine, Barry Goldwater announced his candidacy for president, and the game show Jeopardy premiered on NBC.

In June 1964 Brenda Caldwell also graduated from Blacksburg High School. A few months later in 1965, she was employed full time in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in an administrative support role. 

She is being recognized this month for 50 years of service to the university, a milestone that only a few university employees have ever achieved.

Caldwell, a program support technician in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, has seen lots of changes. She can even recall when dictaphones were an essential tool for drafting correspondence in her job. It’s a tool that caused a funny moment between her and a faculty member when she transcribed the word “ewe” as “you” in a report. Years later she transitioned to working on a computer, a technology advancement that vastly transformed the office environment.

Though her title has varied, from secretary, to clerk typist, to clerk stenographer, and now program support technician, Caldwell’s position remained constant.

“I think a job is challenging every day, and once you figure it out, you think ‘Why did I make this so hard?’,” said Caldwell.

It’s a statement that provides insight into her longevity as an employee of Virginia Tech as much as a mantra about life in general. A lifelong resident of Blacksburg, Caldwell laughs easily and does not let much get in the way of being grateful for the time she has spent in her position.

In fact she was offered early retirement in 2003. But Caldwell knew she couldn’t do that.

“I like coming to work,” said Caldwell. “It gives me a reason to get out of bed.”

Caldwell primarily supports 4-H programming and has supported programs dealing with the coordination of youth equine activities.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Equine Specialist Celeste Crisman has worked with Caldwell for the last 10 years.

“She’s been a tremendous resource for the programs that she works with,” said Crisman. “She keeps us on track and on schedule. Her institutional knowledge is priceless regarding people and administrative issues.”

Some people count down the days to retirement, but not Caldwell. She stopped working full-time in February but will remain on staff part-time until June. After that she’ll have more time to devote to doing the things she enjoys like reading mysteries, crocheting, and knitting.

“She’s got a tremendous work ethic, sense of responsibility, and loyalty,” said Crisman. “We will miss her dearly.”

Written by Amy Loeffler.