SEMINOLE — It’s a staff joke that St. Petersburg College’s Associate Provost Lynda Womer’s office “has a revolving door,” said Mark Strickland, provost of SPC’s Seminole campus.
Seminole campus faculty and staff are in and out of her office, he said, most of them with questions about SPC programs or procedures.
“She’s the go-to person,” Strickland said. “She knows just about everything.”
Womer’s impending retirement at the end of April is “bittersweet” for her coworkers, he added.
“I’m happy for her, but it’s definitely bittersweet,” he said. “That’s 35 years of institutional knowledge walking out the door.”
Her departure is equally as bittersweet for Womer.
“St. Pete College has been a very good employer. It goes both ways. I’ve given them a lot of work. But they’ve been very good to work for,” she said. “And the people I work with are phenomenal. I can’t say enough about the staff at this campus. They have a heart for the students.”
Womer, a Seminole resident, started her career as an elementary school teacher. She left her job when her children were born to stay home with them.
A divorce led to her needing to go back to work sooner than she planned. Her friend, Sheryl Peterson, ran the telecourse program at SPC and needed assistance. She convinced Womer to work for her part-time.
Based at SPC’s district office, which was then located in Pinellas Park, Womer worked several days a week. When Peterson moved to a different position, the district office provost, Calvin Harris, tapped Womer to take on the position.
From there, she moved around a bit, overseeing the dual enrollment program, the international study abroad program and College for Kids summer program at various points.
She was based at SPC’s Allstate Center in St. Petersburg when she saw the college planned to open a new campus in Seminole. Hoping for a shorter commute, she applied for a job based at Seminole that would have her running the telecourse program again.
She’s been at the Seminole campus “from the time it opened, before it even broke ground,” she said. SPC staff set up in a former Christian school where the recreation center is currently located and across from the future SPC Seminole campus, which opened in 1998.
“We watched the dirt pile turn into a college,” Womer said.
SPC’s telecourse program “morphed overnight to eCampus, one of the first online programs in the state of Florida,” she said.
The college received a federal grant to build the program, which offered an entire associate of arts degree online.
The Seminole provost at the time, Dr. Jim Olliver, asked her, “What do you know about online courses?”
“I said, ‘Absolutely nothing,’” she said. “And he said, ‘We’ll learn together.’”
She added, “We invented our own brand of online courses. We were the first Florida college to have an entire online degree. They were not what they are today. They’re more interactive and visually appealing now. They were very basic back then.”
It was “a unique program,” she said. Many students didn’t even reside in the greater Seminole area.
“So, when they needed student services, they would call my little department of me and my two staff assistants,” Womer said. “We did our best to assist them.”
Eventually, SPC “decided to slice and dice eCampus,” she said. Each academic department now oversees online and in-person classes in their academic areas.
Olliver encouraged Womer to apply for an associate provost opening, a job she’s held since 2005.
In this role, she supervises all student services, which includes academic advisors, career center, testing center, business office and accessibility services, student life and leadership.
After 35 years, she’s “ready for a less frantic pace,” she said.
Womer loves to travel — she caught the travel bug while working with the international study abroad program — and has several trips planned.
“I’m looking forward to this next chapter in life,” she said.