By Danny Priest
As one opens the door to the student activities office on the second floor of Campus Union at Springfield College, they look out in front of them and see a red carpet and low hanging ceilings. The office smells of the warm aroma of fresh baked bread that has seeped up from the Subway bakery down below.
Five doors line the right wall of the room students commonly refer to as the “SAC.” Each door has a tall, narrow glass pan next to it and hanging in each glass panel is a sheet of paper.
The paper has a bright red heart on it, and the name of the person whose office it is written above the heart. The heart is not perfect, it’s crooked, it’s a bit scribbled, the handwriting is messy. At the bottom of the page it says “To: (whoever’s office it is), From: Liam.”
The hand drawn hearts are a quality touch to a room filled with decorations of snowmen for winter and clovers for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Enter further into the room and one more office becomes visible at the end of the hall, buried away in the right corner of the room. The door has no decorations, and to the left of it there is a maroon plaque with a label. “211 Annie Warchol.”
It’s in that room, 211, where a leader of Springfield College works. Director of the Student Union and Campus Activities, Warchol’s door is always open to meet students needs.
In fact, those hearts that hang next to every door in the office, they were drawn by her son, Liam. A gift to everyone in the office and a sign of how close she is with the campus.
In talking to students, it’s not hard to find high praise for Warchol and all that she does.
“Annie is as real as they come. Her honesty, and genuine kindness is something that I have always admired,” said sophomore Joe Leazott.
“Working alongside her and learning about her story has impacted me and my leadership style in the best of ways. Annie is a natural role model, a friend, and someone who constantly reminds me to not be so hard on myself,” he added.
His sentiment is common among students. Anyone who knows Warchol has been touched by her, and left impacted in a positive way.
Warchol is a natural leader, and she credits that to her grandmother and mother, for instilling those principles of caring and independence into her at a young age.
“She was a pioneer woman,” Warchol said of her grandmother Ann Rice. “She didn’t get married until she was 28. She worked at Bell Atlantic at the time, she worked as switchboard operator.”
Warchol described Rice as having her own sense of independence, and never feeling like she needed someone else to give things to her in life.
“Always for woman empowerment” Warchol said of her. “Always wanted to instill (that) just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do anything you wanna do in this life. She was a driving force – there was never this pressure in you need to find a man to take care of you. It just didn’t exist in my world.”
Much like her grandmother, Warchol cited her mother, Barbara Ruvolo, for teaching her the qualities that have made her who she is now.
“She always worked three jobs to support us. My mom was definitely the ruler of the house and continues to be the ruler of the house,” Warchol said. “(She’s) so driven and smart, compassionate, and I think I’ve taken some of those qualities. I would hope.”
The biggest lesson she taught her was never to be complacent.
“Be kind to others and always lead by example. Don’t sit, be productive,” Warchol said.
Now, that leadership and creativity has taken full form at Springfield College. Warchol has her fingerprints on numerous leadership initiatives. She’s been involved with Pre-Camp, New Student Orientation, and Leadership Lockin, among countless other activities for students.
Cam Labelle, who is now a graduate student at Springfield College and works alongside her in the SAC office, has seen her work for four years now.
“Annie is a natural born leader and mentor. She is always her full authentic self and is able to get down to each students level in order to truly connect,” he said of Warchol.
“That is why so many students here on campus look up to her and I’m truly so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from her both as an undergraduate student and as a graduate assistant. I only hope to make as much of an impact on a campus as she has here at Springfield.”
Warchol credits Kelly Yough, the former Director of Student Activities at Mount Saint Mary’s College for inspiring her into her career path.
“Kelly really took me under her wing and showed me how great it was to work on a college campus, and why wouldn’t I want to do this for a living,” Warchol said. “She taught me that I was good at it, and that it was easy for me to do. Without her directing me, I probably would be a teacher.”
Students reap the benefits of having Warchol around on campus as a comforting presence and guiding figure, but she says the students give just as much back to her as she does for them.
“As you get older, people just aren’t as enthusiastic. So you (the students) all keep me going and motivated and constantly challenging me to be better at my job and to adapt to the needs of you,” she said.
“I feel rejuvenated coming to work and talking to students, because you bring that out of me,” she added.
Now, Warchol is in a place where she is happy, and students are happy with the programs she’s created.
“I feel like my role now is to mentor and guide the younger professionals in my office, and to help them grow and to see where they have strengths and weaknesses, and to make our team here continue to be the best they can absolutely be,” she said.
“It should be fun and enjoyable when people come into the (student activities) office. This shouldn’t be like ‘oh no, I have to go to that office,’ you should wanna come in here,” she added.
As long as Warchol is here, students at Springfield College will be better off. “Annie is everything you would hope for in an advisor. She is guiding and helpful, available and eager, practical yet imaginative,” said junior Diara Vicedomini of Warchol.
“She is a leader who is a role model for student leadership by demonstrating honesty, authenticity and dedication in her work and interactions every day,” Vicedomini added.
Warchol took a vacation to Florida in February, and while the time away was nice, she loves her place here on campus.
“I go away on a vacation and people are always like ‘how’s work?’ and you always hear from others ‘ugh,’ she said. “I can’t even imagine, I don’t say that. I’ll say it’s stressful or we’re busy right now, but you’ll never hear me say, I hate going there. I just feel fortunate that I have that.”
For as long as Warchol is in 211, she’s exactly where students, and herself, want her to be.
Photo courtesy Annie Warchol