It took Linda
Naylor a long time to settle in one place. Of course, for a
long time she never had any say in the subject of where she
During the Great Depression, her father
had gone to sea on the Great Lakes with the U.S. Merchant Marine.
He started out at the age of 18 wiping oil off the engines and
would become the youngest man to be licensed as a chief engineer.
His work kept him away from home and would
end up carrying him off to war about the time Naylor, the oldest
of his five children, was born in Baltimore in 1941.
"He didn't have any ships sunk under
him, but four ships that he had sailed on were sunk on their
very next voyage," Naylor said.
She was 4 when her father returned from
the war and decided to move his family to Kenton, Ohio, outside
Dayton, to be closer to his parents.
By '46, they were supposed to move to
California, but they ended up stopping in Arizona to visit her
uncle. What was supposed to be a brief visit turned into an
eight-year stay. Finally, in '54, they moved to Costa Mesa,
Calif., where Naylor would graduate from high school.
Maybe all that moving around as a child
is one of the reasons why Naylor has decided to work in South
Building for so long and has come to be seen as an anchor of
stability through the seas of change.
It is this kind of steady, reliable and
stellar service that won Naylor a 2004 C. Knox Massey Award.
The citation for the Massey Award said
Naylor had spent 17 of her 24 years of University employment
in the provost's office, with four provosts and one interim
provost having benefited from her "knowledge about Carolina
and the people who comprise the University."
"Linda is one of the most valuable
staff members the University of North Carolina currently has
on this campus," said Robert Shelton, executive vice chancellor
and provost. "She retains a vast amount of institutional history,
information that is an asset to any new administrator who enters
Co-workers describe her not only as an
effective office manager but a person who is the epitome of
grace and decorum and who treats everyone with whom she works
with compassion, understanding and fairness.
In short, Shelton said, "she is the ideal
The long journey
Getting to Carolina with her own family, she will tell you,
was as long a journey, in miles and years, as getting to California
had been as a girl.
And it happened that way because Naylor
decided to marry into the U.S. Army, the same way her mother
had married into the Merchant Marine.
She met Paul Naylor in the summer of '62.
At the time, she was pursuing a degree in public administration
from the University of Denver and was home for the summer working
in the registrar's office at Orange Coast College in California.
Paul was a Specialist 5 in the Army working on a degree to earn
a direct commission as a second lieutenant.
The Army sent Paul to the college to earn
a degree in computer programming, and she was one of the staff
who clicked the punch cards. When they met in the office, something
between them clicked, too.
"Paul took me out for dinner, not
a date, and a movie," Naylor said.
It was not a date, Naylor made clear,
because in a few days an airman stationed in Spain would be
coming home, and in a few weeks they were set to marry.
But when she saw her fiancé she
broke the engagement. Something inside her just knew, she said.
She and Paul got their marriage license
the same day Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and they held
the wedding the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. For the next
two decades, Naylor would build her life around the packing
and unpacking of suitcases.
In November of 1964, they would be sent
to Zweibrucken, Germany.
They came back to the states in 1966 for
Paul to work as an instructor at the Aberdeen Proving Ground
Their oldest daughter, Katherine, was
born Aug. 9, 1968. Their second daughter, Stephanie, was born
Sept. 3, 1970. It was a Friday afternoon, Naylor remembers,
and Paul left for Vietnam the following Monday. He returned
home on Aug. 9, 1971, on Katherine's birthday.
Paul stayed in the Army another eight
years and retired as a major in January of 1979. By then, Paul
had earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland
and a master's degree from George Washington University and
had applied to six universities to earn his doctorate, including
That Memorial Day weekend, the Naylors
moved to Durham and Paul started school at Carolina.
Putting down roots
School also turned out to be the best place for Linda to work.
She started working part-time at the herbarium
under curator Jim Massey and worked out a schedule so she could
be at home for her husband and two daughters.
In 1987, a year after Katherine went off
to St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, Naylor began looking for
a full-time job. She found it in South Building, working for
Carol Reuss, the newly appointed assistant provost for educational
Other bosses with various titles would
come and go, and Naylor stayed put to serve them all. They included
people like Sam Williamson and Dennis O'Connor and Dick McCormick
and Dick Richardson and now Shelton. All have been a pleasure
to work for, yet they all had their own special style, Naylor
said. McCormick could turn out more correspondence than anybody
she has ever seen in her life, she said. When McCormick left
to serve as president of the University of Washington in Seattle,
a woman who would be working for him called Naylor to ask her
what to expect.
"Buy yourself a couple of new file
cabinets," Naylor told her.
At this point she has not given any thought
to retirement, although she knows one of these days she will
have to start. "I still enjoy coming to work every day," Naylor
As a general rule, she doesn't like e-mail.
Yes, there is a cold efficiency to it, but she still likes the
sound of somebody's voice on the phone, or their smile if they
come by the office to talk.
Although she wields no official position
of authority, she has over the years earned a degree of respect
from administrators that they expect to hear what she thinks
about an issue -- and she expects them to hear her out.
Even though she has been doing the same
job for years, it remains fresh because there is no settled
routine. "There's a lot going on at this University, and this
office and this building is where a lot of it happens."
Stephanie graduated from Carolina in 1992
and since has earned two master's degrees and is working on
her doctorate in social work here while working as director
of the INTERACT, a domestic abuse shelter in Raleigh.
Katherine and her husband John live in
Austin, Texas. She teaches first grade, and he is an executive
producer of an evening news show.
"You can also put in there that
they gave me the world's greatest grandson," Naylor said. Andrew,
or Drew as he is called, turned 5 on Aug. 26.
Editor's note: This story is the first
in a series featuring 2004 winners of the C. Knox Massey Distinguished
Service Award. The late C. Knox Massey of Durham created the
awards in 1980 to recognize "unusual, meritorious or superior
contributions" by University employees. The award is supported
by the Massey-Weatherspoon Fund created by three generations
of Massey and Weatherspoon families. Chancellor James Moeser
selected the honorees from nominations submitted by the campus.
They each received an award citation and $6,000 stipend.