It takes an appropriate balance of loyalty and discretion to serve as the personal assistant to the dean of a law school. Becky Wimberg has been mastering that balance for decades.
She began her journey on Jan. 2, 1974, as a receptionist at UofL’s Brandeis School of Law. A couple of years later, she became the secretary to the assistant dean, then the secretary to the associate dean.
In 1991, she went to work for then-Dean Donald Burnett Jr. and has served in the same capacity for subsequent deans Laura Rothstein, Jim Chen and Susan Duncan.
“All of the deans have been so different, so diverse. You couldn’t have a more diverse group. But I’ve liked them all,” she said.
At the end of October, Becky will retire from the Brandeis School of Law.
On that same day, Becky’s husband, Bobby Wimberg, will also retire after 14 years of service in UofL’s Physical Plant department, marking the end of the couple’s combined 57 years of service to the Belknap Campus.
Becky and Bobby were newlyweds when Becky landed at the University of Louisville School of Law (it was named after Justice Louis D. Brandeis in 1997). The campus itself was about a third of the size it is now. Crawford Gym was as far east as the university’s property extended.
Besides the construction and revitalization efforts, Becky said the biggest changes during her tenure have been the transition to computers in the late 80s/early 90s, the law library opening (1974) and the classroom wing expansion (1982).
“The library and the new, beautiful classroom wing were both so good for the school. It was good news for us,” she said.
Becky gravitates toward good news; in all of her years on campus, she points to negative coverage of UofL in general as her least favorite memory.
“It’s hard not to take it personally. It’s like when someone says something bad about your family,” she said.
The law school, especially, has felt like family for Becky.
“We’re like our own little organization here. I like that. I’ve liked getting to know people and their families,” she said. “And I’ve had the chance to get to know some of the students. So many students have come through here and have gone on to become successful. That’s been one of my favorite parts of the job.”
Brandeis School of Law Dean Susan Duncan describes Becky as “the heart and soul of the law school.”
“She is reliable, hardworking, dedicated and extremely talented. She is a wonderful advocate for the school,” Duncan said. “Many past deans are forever grateful that Becky was at their side. Becky is more than an assistant but a true friend. We will miss her tremendously.”
Learning something new every day
When Bobby started working at UofL on Oct. 7, 2002, he had one goal: to learn something new every day.
That day marked a full career change for him after 29 years working at the Philip Morris factory. When the factory closed, he went to HVAC school for a couple of years.
“I always wanted to work on stuff and I figured HVAC wasn’t going to go away,” he said. “I thought (UofL) was a good direction. I had structured hours and a set schedule. I’d also heard it was a good place to work.”
An added perk? They could commute together.
“That’s worked out especially well for me,” Becky joked, noting that it allows her time to read the newspaper each morning. “But it was good when he came here. I think Bobby was always envious that I liked my job here a lot.”
Now, as he eyes retirement at the end of this month, Bobby can confidently say he accomplished his goal.
“When I came here, I had experience, but I was doing routine work at the factory every day in the same building. Now I’m doing a lot of different stuff every day – plumbing, electrical, pneumatics (pressurized air). It’s refreshing,” he said. “When I left Philip Morris I was 46 years old. I thought I was too old to learn anything new. But when I went to school, I was intrigued. I wish I had done that 30 years earlier.”
The memories that stand out most for Bobby are weather-related. For example, when UofL flooded in 2009, a dumpster floated into his van. As the water receded, he noticed it had crashed into his driver side door and was on its side.
And during heavy snowstorms, the Physical Plant team would typically be alone on campus.
“It’s interesting. There’s no activity but us,” he said. “But it’s good because we can always get a lot of work done in the buildings and the classrooms when nobody else is around.”
“Bob has contributed so much to the university and Physical Plant with his calm, patient and courteous manner. He has been the steady hand that has helped lead the shop through floods, hurricanes and ice storms,” said Foreman Clyde Paul.
The Wimbergs have a palpable fondness for their employer. Both describe their colleagues as family. Both are fiercely loyal to the Cardinal sports teams. In fact, one of Bobby’s favorite memories as an employee is winning Sugar Bowl tickets in 2013.
“We were on ESPN and everything,” he said. “That was fun. That’s just the type of stuff our university does. They try to make it a good place to work.”
When asked what they will miss the most about working at UofL, they agree it will be the people.
“I was practically a child when I started working here. The people here and I grew up together. I know their spouses and their kids,” Becky said.
Their retirement plans are simple: They have three young grandkids to keep them busy, they’re building a house, they want to visit at many national parks as they possibly can and they will “absolutely” continue to cheer for UofL.