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Meet Sheila Lockhart, Religion Department

Sheila LockhartSheila Lockhart, administrative assistant in the religion department for the last six years, has found a second family among the faculty and students in the department. She was once listed as number 3 on the “Top 10 reasons to be a religion major.” When a student declares a major in religion, she rings a bell: “Every time the bell rings a religion student gets their wings!” And when students leave, she’s always ready to welcome them back, “so they can come home whenever they want.”

What do you do?

You could say I wear many hats! I assist the chair (Jay Ford), the faculty and adjuncts, and our students with all matters that keep the department chugging along at a steady clip. We have active faculty and students, academically, as well as in social outreach and public engagement projects. So many exciting things go on in our department I can never tell what may come my way next. I assist with everything from the finances to course schedules; special events; the maintenance of our space; book orders and supply procurement; and the supervision of our student workers. I work a lot with our students. I declare our majors and minors (I ring a bell for each declaration because “every time the bell rings a religion student gets their wings!”). I hand out bandages, drive students to the doctors and dry many tears. I love the variety of the work and it doesn’t hurt to admire the people for whom you do the work!

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Definitely the community! We have dinners every semester for students and faculty to get together and have conversations beyond the classroom. This way we get to know students who may not have crossed our paths before. I love the department. The faculty and students are like family. The faculty are so good to me and to our students. The Pro Humanitate ideal is alive and thriving in this department. I love connecting students to the perfect class, special program or faculty member and helping them to navigate their time here. Assisting the professors in the admirable work they do, problem solving and foreseeing needs for my department is rewarding. I can’t speak highly enough about my department.

Life in Wingate Hall is busy but fun! I enjoy being in such a public building and the exposure to the special events (concerts, plays and lectures) going on in Wait Chapel. One day, (Supreme Court associate justice) Ruth Bader Ginsberg popped her head in my office to thank me for coffee. It’s exciting to be on this hall.

I have to say the only thing that I do not like about my job is when all the students I have come to know so well graduate. It is hard to say goodbye! But that’s the job of a University—to educate and prepare students and then send them on their way. I like to be a little light in the window of Wake that they can ‘come home to’ whenever they want.

What’s one of the highlights of your time here?

My absolute favorite experience was a few summers ago. The wonderful Dr. Mary Foskett was teaching a summer session class at the Worrell House in London. Knowing how much my husband and I love London, she invited us to come and stay for a week! How awesome is that??

Another highlight was when the Theta Alpha Kappa students (the honor society for Religion) created a t-shirt with the “Top Ten Reasons to be a Religion Major,” a la David Letterman. I made No. 3!

Do you keep up with former students?

Oh, yes! I am constantly in touch with former students by e-mail, phone and Facebook (a former student created an account for me about five years ago and showed me how to use it!). It is great to keep tabs on all my ‘children.’ My home has sort of become a pit stop for many of them. Just over winter break I had visits from four alums as well as a dog visit from a former student who had lived with me for about nine months. We have had six students who needed a place to live for a semester or two come and stay in our house. Since October, we have attended several weddings of Wake Forest grads. Maybe shortly I will have ‘Religion Department Grandchildren!’ My student involvement has really enriched my whole family. There is even a graduate from 2006 who is serving as a minister in Mystic, Conn., where I have family.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., but was raised in Fairfield, Conn. When I was growing up, Fairfield was a small town like Winston-Salem, so I feel very much at home here. My husband moved us down to North Carolina with a job (first to Charlotte and then to Winston), and I fell in love with this town. But I have very fond memories of growing up in Connecticut. I still have family there and love to visit annually. While I am a New Englander at heart, I am not sure I would be able to withstand the rigors of the cold winters up there any longer!

How did you end up at Wake Forest?

I had worked part-time at my son’s school as a substitute teacher, pre-school teacher and a teacher’s aide in both second grade and fifth grade. I love the classroom! When my son hit middle school, he was ready for some well-deserved autonomy. You don’t really want your mom to bust up your game in middle school! The religion department job was posted and I wanted it—it felt right. Little did I know that there were so many other applicants—I would have been much more nervous about the process if I had been aware. But I came to campus for an interview and it clicked—I felt like I had ‘come home!’ I hadn’t worked full-time since my son was born and it was nice to get back to work! And how lucky am I to have found this job????

Family?

I have been married to my wonderful, supportive husband Brian for 20 years and I have an awesomely fun and witty 17-year-old son named Tucker. We have a sweet little Rat Terrier named Patch. My uncle, Jack, is also down here from Connecticut. He lives in assisted living and joins us for various outings as well as church and Sunday dinner every week. I love the company of my family and the friends who have become like family.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I am a total home-body! I love to cook family dinners on Sunday and fill the table with family and friends. I am a voracious reader, especially fiction. I love to knit. In fact, I recently sustained an injury and couldn’t knit for the longest time so I was reading about knitting. What a nerd I am!!

I would like to travel later in life but this is not the season for it. I have a child in high school right now and am the primary care giver to my uncle. So I guess it is a good thing that I am content with life at home and the annual trek to New England and popping to the beach on the beautiful NC shore!

What’s your dream job?

I would love to work in film …be a location scout or a continuity editor. My family and I love movies and are always trying to recognize where things are filmed and to locate continuity errors. My husband is a high-school English teacher, and we talk about retiring someday and going to teach in a high-needs area, maybe in an inner-city school or out West on a reservation.

By Kerry M. King (’85), Office of Communications and External Relations

Category: Staff News | Tag: ,