Retired administrative support coordinator Michelle Berglund-Smith, who served the University for nearly 20 years, passed away July 29. She was 66.
Born October 22, 1955, she was hired at Chico State in 2001 as an administrative support assistant in the Mathematics and Statistics Department. Two years later, she accepted the same role in the English Department, where she served for three years before a promotion to an administrative support coordinator (ASC) in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
In 2006, Berglund-Smith transferred to the Computer Science Department as an ASC, where she would work for the next 14 years before retiring in fall 2020.
“Michelle brought a distinct warmth and acceptance to the Computer Science Department,” said Professor Kevin Buffardi. “We could always count on her to greet us with a genuine smile that made students and faculty alike feel at home. She always knew when to offer wisdom when we were in need of help or listen and commiserate when we needed to vent. Michelle was a lovely person through and through and made our campus and our lives a happier place.”
Other colleagues echoed that Berglund-Smith’s hospitable attitude created a welcoming environment. The candy dish she kept on her desk allowed her to get to know hundreds of students by name, and she is remembered for hosting department events at her home and bringing cake to department meetings for faculty birthdays.
“For 14 years Michelle was the heart of our department,” said Department Chair Tyson Henry. “Not only was she an efficient worker who kept the department running smoothly, she provided social, emotional, and professional support to the faculty.”
He also credited Berglund-Smith for the success of the department’s student assistants, noting her mentoring prepared them for professional careers. Her assistance and leadership were invaluable to him, too, he said, when he became department chair. She taught him many aspects of how the department and University function, was endlessly patient with his many questions, and also provided support and encouragement.
In 2017, Berglund-Smith was nominated as Employee of the Year. Melody Stapleton, then-interim associate dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management, praised her in her nomination for having the highest commitment to students and faculty.
“She always is cheerful, engaging, and professional, and provides effective advice and help, be it for a student in distress or one seeking advising or other kinds of assistance,” Stapleton wrote. “I’ve often witnessed her calming the fears of a given student or just taking their time to discuss their day and get to know them as an individual. Students came away feeling valued and appreciated.”
Berglund-Smith had a similar effect on faculty, who noted that she offered an attentiveness that created the feeling whatever problem they faced was the most important in the world. Professor Patrick Donnelly described her as the best administrative support employee he had ever worked with, starting with the simplest of gestures while he struggled to find a rental shortly after he was hired.
“Day after day, using her personal lunch break, Michelle drove to rental properties, took pictures, and picked up application forms. Michelle did all that for me, despite having never met me in person. That is precisely the type of person she is,” he wrote. “And while it may seem like such a small gesture, at the time, it meant the world to me.”
Berglund-Smith is survived by her husband, Rich, two daughters, and three grandchildren.
Services will be held Monday, August 8, from 1–1:30 p.m. at Glen Oaks Memorial Park at 11115 Midway in Chico.
The University flag will be lowered Monday, August 8, in her memory.