By Bradford Sherman
Family comes first for Marsha Amlin.
It was that way on her first day with The Ohio State University way back on November 25, 1991. It remains that way through her final day on January 31, 2022, as Amlin retires after 30 years with the university at South Centers in Piketon.
“I’m ready to retire, but I feel like I probably would have hung on a little longer if I wasn’t in the position I am in right now,” said Amlin.
More important duties call now for Amlin, who is raising her two older granddaughters following the passing of her son, Chad, last year. Calling it a career now will allow her to spend more time with Harmony and Lilly as they enter their formative teenage years, and more time with her younger grandchildren as well.
It is no surprise that Amlin would choose to put the needs and wellbeing of her family ahead of her own desires to continue working. She has put family first her entire life and encouraged her staff to do the same. Amlin explained that very early on in her working days, she had a supervisor who did not share the same values, and that experience helped shape her.
“I once had a supervisor who wasn’t quite as understanding, and just didn’t see things the way I saw them,” Amlin recalled. “My family came first.”
Amlin vowed to never be like that in the event she ever became a supervisor, which she did in 1996, when she began managing the South Centers support staff. One of her longest-serving staff members is Beth Rigsby, who has worked for, and alongside, Amlin for 16 years.
“Marsha’s philosophy is all about faith, family, and friends. She treats everyone like family, and she took me under her wing,” said Rigsby.
“Whenever I needed to leave work at a moment’s notice, she always said, ‘go, don’t worry about this place, I will be praying for you. Take care of your family.’ Marsha really is the heart of the South Centers.”
Amlin joined South Centers as a secretary in 1991 after holding similar positions at the Vern Riffe Vocational School and a local sawmill. She was one of a group of around eight employees who helped start South Centers, and she still remembers how she felt walking through those doors for the first time.
“As I walked into these doors on my first day, I’m thinking, ‘why did I come here?’ I felt like a duck out of water,” she said with a chuckle.
She can vividly remember the early days of South Centers when all official documents had to be prepared on triplicate paper using a typewriter, then sent to Columbus by U.S. postal mail. Thirty years later, those papers have been replaced by PDFs; typewriters displaced by computers; and snail mail outpaced by email, Microsoft Teams, and Workday.
Just like triplicate forms and typewriters, her uneasy feelings did not last.
“Thankfully, those feelings didn’t last for long. I got to know everyone, and soon started feeling like I was part of the family,” she said.
On that note, Amlin says what she will miss most about South Centers is its people. To her, family extends beyond her own flesh and blood – it also includes the many co-workers she has had the pleasure to work alongside for all these years. The feeling is mutual, especially from those like Dean Rapp, Duane Rigsby, and Wayne Lewis, who have all worked with her since day one.
“I started working here at the age of 21, just a kid,” said the now 52-year-old Rapp. “A great deal of that time, Marsha has been our work mother. Thank you, Mother, you will be greatly missed here!”
“Marsha is the one who you can go to for anything, whether its work related, or you just need someone to talk to about family matters. She is always there to listen and give advice, if need be,” added Duane Rigsby. “She is one everyone goes to for work-related questions, especially the ones that you don’t want to deal with.”
What Lewis will remember most about Amlin is that she always makes time for everyone, no matter how busy she is. “Whenever you go into her office needing help, she will stop what she is doing and get it taken care of for you,” he said. “She can be up to her eyeballs in what she is doing, and she will take the time to help – and makes it look easy.”
Amlin was never one who sought out attention or awards but did gain several accolades over the course of her career at South Centers. She was a two-time South Centers employee of the year award winner and also received the prestigious Buckeye Wellness Leadership Award in 2020 for supporting a culture of wellness.
As for Amlin’s post-retirement plans, she says she has no desire to travel the world like so many others do. She is a self-proclaimed homebody. She has a to-do list, however, raising a pair of teenage granddaughters means that may have to wait. One thing is for sure, she plans to still stay in touch with her “second family.”
“I’m not going to forget about this place. It has been a part of my life for too long to forget about it,” commented Amlin.
When asked about what she hopes everyone at South Centers will remember most about her, she said she hopes they remember that she worked hard and did her best at everything she was asked to do.
“Looking back, I hope that I gained respect from my co-workers. I hope they felt I was dependable, they could come to me whether it was something work-related or they just needed to talk,” she said. “I wasn’t just here to fill an office and do work – I could also be a friend who understands and listens, and could even cry with you, if needed.”
Just talk to those who know her best, and who have worked with her the longest – she undeniably has their respect. Duane Rigsby called Amlin a “rock-solid, steady person.”
“If there was ever a rock to lean on at the South Centers, it would be Marsha. She is a person that started in the front office doing the day-to-day office duties, but quickly became that person that really holds the entire office together,” said Duane Rigsby.
“She is the type of person who works in the shadows, working very hard and keeping things moving, but not doing it in a way that causes issues or makes a lot of noise, but you know things are done and done to the best that they can be.
“She cared for her staff, the employees she worked with, and I would go as far to say, she never considered them employees but more like family members.”
Whether it be her first family at home, or her second family at work, family always comes first for Marsha Amlin.