SHARE
Vic­toria Bergen, ’11, is leaving the president’s office this summer. Vic­toria Bergen | Facebook

Vic­toria Bergen’s col­leagues describe her as the gate­keeper of the president’s office.

“If she were not so sweet and instantly ready to be helpful to everyone, I would call her the unmoved mover. She has divine attributes, but not that kind of deity,” College Pres­ident Larry Arnn said.

Bergen, who serves as the president’s office exec­utive assistant, is leaving at the end of the summer, after seven years of service. Bergen, who studied political economy while at Hillsdale, has worked in the president’s office since a month after her grad­u­ation in 2011. Dean of Women Diane Philipp rec­om­mended her for the job at a bas­ketball game at the beginning of her last semester of school.

“She told me there was an opening in the president’s office and that she thought I should apply,” Bergen said. “I thanked her; I thought it was quite a com­pliment ‚and I was quite inspired by that, but inside I was thinking, ‘Yeah, right, I could never work up there.’ I didn’t really think about it after that.”

Bergen, who was applying for jobs with dif­ferent political orga­ni­za­tions in Wash­ington, D.C., at the time, did not con­sider the oppor­tunity again until Pro­fessor of Law Robert Black­stock sug­gested the job to her, inde­pendent of Philipp. She then began talking with fellow stu­dents who began working in the office after grad­u­ation and decided to apply.

“As an undergrad, I always knew that if I could ever work for the college I would, to try and give back in some way, because the college has blessed me in so many areas. So it just pro­ceeded from there,” Bergen said.

Arnn attributed a majority of the effi­ciency of the president’s office to Bergen’s presence.

“Vic­toria is a picture of quiet effi­ciency,” Arnn said in an email. “She seems to have command of every­thing, and this does not seem very dif­ficult for her. She is blessed with superb judgment.”

He described fellow employees going with “an element of awe” to ask Bergen for help.

Assistant to the Pres­ident Jaclyn Case, who has worked in the office for two years, said it was Bergen who intro­duced her to most of the other staff.

“If it wasn’t for her, I would still be sitting in the corner, not knowing a lot of faces,” Case said, laughing.

Bergen described her own job as a simple matter of doing whatever needs to be done, from cal­endar items to larger goals, like the Churchill Project.

“Mainly, I see my role as sup­porting Dr. Arnn and our office in the mission of Hillsdale. Looking at what Dr. Arnn needs, what Mrs. Arnn needs, or working with senior staff members,” Bergen said.

But, she said, her favorite task is enter­taining.

“I love events and hos­pi­tality,” Bergen said. “I’ve been able to work a lot with Mrs. Arnn on dif­ferent events that the president’s office has put on.”

Bergen’s knack for hos­pi­tality extends beyond just Hillsdale events, and Arnn said everyone in the office is “angling for an invi­tation to dinner.”

“When things are fun, which is often, Vic­toria enjoys it more than anyone,” Arnn said. “She is a tremendous cook, at least judged by the things she brings to the office to eat. This capacity means that cel­e­bra­tions, birthdays, hol­idays, and such are tasty in the president’s office. We will all miss that.”

Arnn said he teases Bergen more than the others in the office do, and has even attempted to match her up with other male employees.

“I have pro­posed mar­riage between her and several people over the years, often in the presence of both of them, always with the comment that the young man was unworthy. Appar­ently she has agreed with me about their wor­thiness,” Arnn said.

Despite Arnn’s attempts to set Bergen up, mar­riage is not the reason for her departure from the president’s office. Bergen will return to her home in Nebraska to com­mence a three-year study to receive her doc­torate in occu­pa­tional therapy. Bergen attributed this shift of interest in part to watching occu­pa­tional ther­a­pists help her father after an accident a couple of years ago.

“Being able to see how they can truly impact someone’s life really drew me to that field,” she said.

Bergen explained she planned to only work in the president’s office for a couple of years, like most of those who held the position before her. Once there, however, she worked for five years before beginning to con­tem­plate a change.

“A couple of years ago, I was sitting down and asked myself, ‘Vic­toria, what do you want to do with your life?’” she said. “I knew I wanted to impact people on a more prac­tical and per­sonal level. All the aspects that I desired in a career were in occu­pa­tional therapy.”

Case explained that the tran­sition has been in progress since that point, though finding someone to take over Bergen’s role has not been easy.

“It’s got to be the right fit,” Case said. “We’re a big team, we all do parts of projects and are con­stantly working together, so you really want someone who can fit in to that dynamic.”

She added that her respect for Arnn has grown through working for him.

“As a student, I never realized how much Dr. Arnn did. I think every year that goes by, I gain a new appre­ci­ation for all the sac­ri­fices that he makes and how ded­i­cated he is to the college and the stu­dents; it’s just incredibly impressive. Now I know exactly what he does every day, and I would not want his job, let’s put it that way,” she said, laughing.

She also empha­sised the impor­tance of getting to know Penny Arnn, Pres­ident Arnn’s wife.

“Mrs. Arnn is one of the most gra­cious people I have ever met and a superb hostess. It’s been really impressive to see what she does as well and the support that she is behind the scenes,” Bergen said.

Afterall, even in the president’s office, Bergen said Hillsdale is about the people.

“I think the thing that I will take away from this job the most are the people that I’ve worked with,” she said.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    I know vic­toria and she is a really smart person who has really grown while at hillsdale. Con­grats to her and good luck in your future.

    With that being said — the stuff about Dr. Arnn proposing mar­riage for her seems to me to be bor­derline har­rassment, and I can’t imagine that this was some­thing she was happy to be involved with.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Oh come on! If you can’t kid around a little bit inno­cently at the office then what else is left? Geeze Louise!

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        Thank you for responding, as this is actually a con­ver­sation that hillsdale alumni, like everyone else, needs to be having. I would agree with you that kidding around inno­cently at the office is fun, good, and enjoyable. I think that the subject matter that is kidded about can impact some­thing fun and make it some­thing else. In this case there a very important thing to con­sider:

        There is a huge power imbalance here that impacts these con­ver­sa­tions. kidding around about someone’s marital prospects and “arranging” mar­riages in this way is not an appro­priate role for Dr. Arnn, and one of his direct reports, unless he asked for consent or it was pro­vided by Vic­toria.
        He is probably going to respond to this by saying “but I clearly said they weren’t worthy of her” but it really doesn’t matter. It’s not his subject to discuss. She can do whatever she wants.

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          Every­thing should be judged on context, but since you’re on a mission to dis­parage Pres­ident Arnn it’s mean­ingless to point that out. I find your com­ments and those in the other article regarding the Mac­Donald talk to be mean-spirited in the extreme.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            Not on a mission to dis­parage anyone. The facts are con­victing some­times. If you can hon­estly say that your female col­leagues and family members would appre­ciate someone in an immense position of power sayhing these kinds of things about/to them, you need to recon­sider your pri­or­ities and values.