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New adventures on the horizon

Geri McInerney, Karen Williams set to retire this month

Geri McInerney

Geri McInerney, assistant to the dean

When Geri McInerney came to VCU 13 years ago, she already had years of experience in k-12 education working in schools, central office and at the state level.

That experience began just outside of Toronto, Canada, when she decided to change direction and take her first job in education as “an assistant’s assistant’s assistant’s assistant” at a local high school. It was a step back from her previous job working for the general manager of a rapidly expanding private company, but it had two important advantages.

“It allowed me to spend more time with my daughters, who were aged 7 and 10 at the time, and it gave me a valuable perspective – it helped me to appreciate everyone at every level,” she said.“When you climb a ladder of success, it’s easy to forget what it was like on the lower rungs.”

A few years later, the family relocated to Richmond, Va. She started working for Henrico County Public Schools in their central office. This lead to an opportunity to work with Dr. William C. Bosher, Jr. at the Virginia State Department of Education, an opportunity for which she will be forever grateful. Since then she has had the good fortune to work with some amazing superintendents and deans (including Dr. Bosher again in Chesterfield County Public Schools and at the VCU School of Education).

“Most of the people in education want to make life better for a child, an adult, a community, or even the world. That vein runs through everyone in education. They realize that they’re helping to shape a human being, and they care.”
– Geri McInerney

Having worked in private industry and public education, McInerney is quick to point out why she likes the latter.

“In the private sector, you have a responsibility to your product or your shareholders, and of course, to grow the business. It can, at times, be ruthless and not necessarily humanitarian,” she said.

“On the other hand, most of the people in education want to make life better for a child, an adult, a community, or even the world. That vein runs through everyone in education. They realize that they’re helping to shape a human being, and they care.”

McInerney is looking forward to retirement so she and her husband can devote more time to sailing, something they learned how to do in Canada over 30 years ago.

One of their memorable family trip was a 19-day adventure around three of the Great Lakes. They enjoy doing maintenance to the boat themselves, including replacing auxiliary parts, adding air conditioning and treating the wood.

One of their favorite sailing spots is on the Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s amazing. People come from all around the world to sail it. We’ll sail up a creek off the bay and drop anchor. We have kayaks and go further up the creek to where there are tall grasses, blue herons and eagles’ nests. There’s nobody around. Then we’ll go back to the boat, make dinner and watch the sun go down. It’s very peaceful.”


Karen Williams

Karen Williams, senior faculty secretary, Teaching and Learning

Karen Williams first came to VCU 36 years ago with the idea of becoming a student. Then she found out how much it would cost.

“I decided I’d better go to work here instead,” she said. Her first job with the university was in the School of Education.

The campus looked very different in the early ‘80’s. There was no Siegel Center. No University Student Commons. Shafer Court hadn’t been built up yet. However, one of the biggest differences, Williams says, was that parking was more convenient.

“Back then, we had a parking lot right behind Oliver Hall, where the Trani Center for Life Sciences is located today,” she said.

The parking situation eventually changed, and Williams took advantage of other benefits such as expanded course offerings and the Grace Harris Higher Ground Women’s Leadership Program (Class of 2016), which have provided her with many learning opportunities over the years.

“I’m a lifelong learner, and I love being in this environment. To anyone out there who is just starting out, you will grow in leaps and bounds if you take advantage of it.”
– Karen Williams

“I’ve taken classes in the humanities, lots of professional development classes. Some of them were hard, but I always learned a lot. You’d go in with one approach to doing something, and the course would teach you ways to improve. I was able to bring that learning back to the office,” she said.

The learning environment at VCU has been one of the most enjoyable parts of Williams’ life for the past 36 years.

“I’m a lifelong learner, and I love being in this environment. To anyone out there who is just starting out, you will grow in leaps and bounds if you take advantage of it.”

Williams, who was born and raised in Washington, D.C., has called Richmond home for most of her life. She’s also enjoyed seeing VCU – particularly the students – become such a big part of the city’s growth.

“Students are so much more involved today than when I was younger. It’s so refreshing to see. It makes you proud to be a part of VCU.”

Williams has family in surrounding states, and she plans to see more of them in the months and years ahead. She’s also looking forward to the days when she won’t have to “get up so early” anymore.

“It’ll be nice to get my proper rest during the week,” she said.