UW News

August 7, 2008

Stephanie Steppe steps down

Stephanie Steppe, director of Health Sciences Academic Services & Facilities, doesn’t think she has taken more than a week’s vacation at a time in 40 years. She said she would know she was truly retired when she had “gotten to the eighth day without waking to an alarm clock.”

On July 31, Steppe retired after 34 years at the UW.

Her career path to her most recent position was eclectic and circuitous. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in child psychology from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Steppe started her career in childhood bereavement at the Center for Death Education and Research at the University of Minnesota.

While there, she developed and distributed educational materials on death and dying, as well as worked on grants related to childhood bereavement and organ donation. In 1974, she joined a grant project at the UW to develop training materials on child abuse and neglect.

“I worked on that grant for three years. When it was completed, I got a temporary six-month appointment to start Health Sciences Classroom Services in this department,” she recalled. “And, that six-month appointment turned into a 30-year career in what is now Health Sciences Academic Services & Facilities.”

Steppe said her management and people skills acquired in her previous jobs and her desire to learn helped prepare her for her career at the UW.

“It is true that I don’t have a facilities or architectural degree. There was a lot of on-the-job training regarding the technical and mechanical aspects of my jobs,” she said.

“I was hired to set up, fund and manage the new division of Health Sciences Classroom Services. So, what the original director Nolan Watson was drawing on at that point was my organizational and management skills that came out of my work in death and dying and childhood abuse and neglect, where I set up budgets, staffing, and program details.”

Steppe’s enthusiastic customerservice orientation and can-do attitude were easily apparent. She quickly moved from just Classroom Services, to acquire responsibilities for Building Management & Facilities, Laboratory Services, Scientific Instruments, and eventually landed the job as director of the Health Sciences Academic Services & Facilities in 1990. The department operates nine service divisions.

“We’re a catch-all department,” Steppe said, adding, “If there’s a need, we find a way to meet it or do it.”

She said the department now includes not only those service divisions mentioned above, but also Business & Financial Services, Clinical Skills & Assessment, Computing Support, Creative Services, Director’s Office, and Poster Production Services. (For a full description of the responsibilitiesof each division, visit the department’s Web site at http://depts.washington.edu/hsasf/.)

When asked about the qualities she would wish for her successor, Steppe did not hesitate: “Flexibility, patience, a sense of humor, the ability to multitask, good listening skills and compassion.”

Steppe said she is excited about having more time to pursue her passions (textiles, embroidery and travel) and she will miss her life at the UW.

“My days here have been filled with people, opportunities to learn and grow, and problems to solve. I’m proud of the many projects I’ve worked on and the great people I’ve been able to work with. I’ll miss that, but I am looking forward to that eighth day!”