Executive Assistant Barnes Retires After Four Decades of Service

By Dorany Pineda

After 44 years of service at East Los Angeles College, Olga Barnes bid farewell to the campus community at the close of this semester. It was in the fall of 1971 when Barnes first stepped foot onto ELAC grounds, just a few months after graduating from Garfield Senior High School in East Los Angeles. As a student here, she was a legal secretary major, a fitting field-of-study having learned shorthand and typing at Griffith Middle School.

Her employment history on campus began when Barnes got hired as a student worker in the president’s office, a job she held on to for a year. Soon after, she got a temporary job as an intermediate clerk typist for plant facilities, and was eventually promoted to work in community services as an intermediate clerk stenographer. But Barnes’ first years at ELAC weren’t just work and school; there was also love in the air. “I came here and I met my husband while I was a student in a tennis class,” Barnes said. “There was tennis courts where the [stadium] parking structure is, and that’s where we met.” In 1975 they were married, and a couple of years later they had their first of three children. From there, Barnes continued to hop around campus from one job to another. She worked in what was then called faculty support for the admissions office. “Back at that time, everything was typewriters,” Barnes recalled. “Back then, it was a center, like a typing pool, and they would do all the typing of the exams for the faculty and type out the syllabus.” One of the most exciting opportunities presented to her was in 1984 when ELAC hosted the field hockey games in the stadium for the Summer Olympics. “I worked part time with the college and worked full time with the Olympics… I was the executive assistant to the director for field hockey before the games,” Barnes said. When the games started, she worked as a personnel assistant. “That was a very good job. If anyone ever has an opportunity to work with the Olympics, it’s an awesome job.”

Following several more promotions, Barnes finally settled into her current and final job as executive assistant to then President Ernest Moreno in 1994, whom she worked with for 20 years. Senior secretary Cathy Medina, who has worked with Barnes for 17 years, said that beyond teaching her everything there is to know about her job, Barnes also taught her how to be a kinder person. “I couldn’t have asked for a better person to work alongside,” Medina said. “She’s a good friend and she’s just there if you need her. It’s gonna be really, really, really hard to see her go.” But although Barnes is sad to leave a job she really loves, she looks forward to resting, crocheting, spending time with her five grandchildren, and seeing more of her favorite singer. “I’m a Tom Jones fan, so I plan to attend as many concerts as I can,” Barnes said, who looks forward to seeing him in May in Chicago. “I love his voice. I’m a true fan.”

It was never unusual for someone to walk into the President’s Office and hear the voice of Tom Jones coming out of the speakers on her desk. As she reflects on the many years she’s worked here, Barnes ends with this statement: “I hope to continue the friendships which have come my way during my time at ELAC…People retire, memories do not.”

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