Secretary of Academic Staff Donna Silver retires

Feb. 12, 2013

by Käri Knutson

Donna Silver didn’t plan to retire this soon.

“This is my dream job,” Silver says of being secretary of the Academic Staff for the past three years.

But last March, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the bones. She was given two years to live.

After months of being on medical leave, Silver officially retired Jan. 3. On Feb. 11, she was honored at the Academic Staff Assembly Meeting.

Silver, 60, is determined to make the most out of what time she has left and feels grateful for her years at UW-Madison.

“People have been so good about staying in touch and giving support,” Silver says. “I’m hoping to beat the odds.”

Silver earned her bachelor's degree in art history from Beloit College, and a master of arts in library science and a master of science in continuing and adult education, both from UW-Madison.

Before becoming the secretary of the academic staff, Silver served as assistant director of the UW System's Office of Professional and Instructional Development since 1987. In that role, she coordinated the Wisconsin Teaching Fellows Program and the Faculty College; planned conferences and Staff Council meetings; and administered multiple grant programs.

In her more recent role, Silver worked to raise the visibility of the academic staff. One of those ways was by creating the Academic Staff Art Gallery featuring artwork in Bascom 270.

“I think it was a good match at the right time,” says Heather Daniels, senior administrative program specialist in the Research Division of the Graduate School and past chair of the Academic Staff Executive Committee. “She brought a new energy and new ideas and somewhat of an outside perspective which was great.”

A big part of Silver’s job was serving as a resource for academic staff members, acting as a liaison between ASEC and university administration and assisting on any other matters related to shared governance.

“This really was the job for me,” Silver says. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

And others enjoyed working with her.

“She promoted academic staff wherever she went,” Daniels said. “She never stopped and became very visible on campus. Donna did an amazing amount of work in three years.”

Jo Ann Carr is serving as the interim secretary of the academic staff.

Silver feels good about the impact she was able to make and continues to have a deep appreciation for the people she worked with.

“It’s the best job one could ever want,” Silver says. “Every aspect of university life wouldn’t be what it was without academic staff, from researchers to teachers to librarians. It’s just hard to say goodbye.”