This year, UCI honors our first-ever 50 year service honoree, Diana Speaker, administrative analyst for UCI’s School of Medicine pathology department. Here, we share what we learned during a phone interview with Diana about her career at UCI, her post-UCI (someday) plans, and everything in between.
What influenced your decision to take your first position at UCI? Is there a story there?
I was going to college but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. My family had moved a lot during my childhood due to my father’s job. After my second year of college, he was transferred to the Midwest, and I didn’t want to go. So I stayed here while my family moved thousands of miles away. I quickly found a part-time job with the Orange County Medical Center in the pathology department. Then I got a promotion that same summer to a full-time, higher position. That was the start of my 50 year career. I liked the medical center atmosphere, and I stayed at Orange County Medical Center until the university took over, then I transferred to the School of Medicine pathology office when an opportunity presented itself. I’ve never regretted the decision to stay in Orange County – I can’t imagine myself as a Midwesterner.
Of all the positions you have held at UCI, which one was your favorite?
I’ve worked in pathology for many years. When I moved from the Orange County Medical Center to the School of Medicine, I dropped medical transcription and moved into a human resources roll – processing payroll and other things for the campus pathology office. I liked the broad range of responsibilities I had at the school, so that was probably my favorite role.
Is there a year that stands out in your memory?
I honestly can’t say that there is. I started in 1969 and there have been a lot of years that were fun. I’m going to go with a few decades here. The 70’s and 80’s were fun. I loved the socializing between all the various staff and faculty members of all levels. It was a different time for sure.
Have you had any mentors throughout your career at UCI that you would like to mention? How did they impact your career?
My very first supervisor, Barbara Wilson, who has since passed, really cared about her employees. She taught us things. She was tough but compassionate. Later in my career, I had a CAO that I really enjoyed working for – she was very fair. She didn’t micro manage – she trusted us and that meant a lot to me. If you messed up, she would use it as a learning experience rather than come down hard on her staff. I think that’s part of what makes a great leader.
Did you ever think about leaving UCI for other career opportunities or to explore another path?
Of course. I thought I should finish school at one point, but I had three children, so it didn’t seem like an option. UCI was flexible as my family grew, and that was vitally important to me at the time. I’ll always be appreciative of that – it made me realize I had a good thing where I was.
What made you stay with UCI for 50 years?
I enjoy working and being around people, and I’ve enjoyed my various roles at UCI, so there was never a reason to go anywhere else. As I mentioned, the university was very flexible when I needed it, and that really cemented my decision to stay with the university.
What career advice would you give a colleague just starting out at UCI?
I would tell them to experience as much as you can through your career at UCI. Move around. Explore your career options and find your perfect fit. Sticking with one thing will make you complacent – so challenge yourself to stay sharp. And start contributing to your 403B immediately. Build your nest egg – starting young can really pay off.
What is your favorite memory from your years at UCI?
That’s a hard one, because over the years I’ve collected a lot of great memories. Here’s one that jumps to mind. Our first chairman had a terrible temper. He would yell and shout “expletives” that cannot be repeated. It was so extreme it was comical, but we couldn’t laugh so we’d all have to avoid looking at each other. As strange as it sounds, it was fun, funny, and bonded our team together. And there are a few others from way back – like the 70’s and 80’s again – that I can’t share on these pages!
NOW A FEW FUN QUESTIONS.
If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I could think of a million people. One is Michelle Obama. Another is Robert DeNiro. I think he has a lot of experience that would be interesting to hear about. Oprah Winfrey – I think she would be an easy person to chat with and learn from. But ultimately I would choose my mother. She was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. What I wouldn’t give for one more dinner with her.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat/drink three things for the rest of your life, what would you choose? Water is a freebie!
I love to eat, so this would be hard for me. Okay – popcorn for sure. Rib eye steak. And a margarita.
How would your friends describe you in three words?
Generous. Faithful. If you’re my friend you’re my friend for life. And kind. At least that’s what I think they’d say. But if you really want to know you’ll have to ask them!
What is something you are very passionate about?
My family. I do what I do because of them, with them, and for them. As I’ve matured, I’ve become very passionate about fairness. Give credit where credit is due. Take the blame if it’s yours to take, learn from it and move on.
When the time comes, what does your post-UCI life look like?
After 50 years the first thing I’m going to do is nothing. Just take a nice break. Sleep in. Sip my tea. Then I’ll be spending time with my family – husband, children, and grandchildren. I also hope to see parts of the U.S. I haven’t seen before, volunteer to a cause or two that are meaningful to me, read more, and maybe do a little knitting. It’s a chapter in my life that has been a long time coming, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’m really not sure what I’ll be doing.
UCI Medical Center Through the years
The original Orange County Hospital ca 1914
Wider view of the original Orange County Hospital ca 1914
Orange County Medical Center building 1 ca 1975
UCI buys Orange County Medical Center in 1976; photo ca 1970s Diana Speaker worked at Orange County Medical Center starting in 1970 and was employed there when UCI took over the facility.
Another view of UCI Medical Center ca 1970-80
UCI Medical Center ca 1988-92
The current UCI Medical Center under construction
The UCI Medical Center where Diana Speaker works today.