Although she changed her major in college to avoid taking a single math class, Glynda Groth-Putnam has made a home in the Engineering Student Life office. At the end of January, Groth-Putnam will retire after working at UT for 26 years.
Groth-Putnam worked as a hall coordinator at Jester and as an adviser in the Engineering Student Affairs office before creating the Engineering Student Life office, which manages all of the student organizations within the Cockrell School of Engineering.
Groth-Putnam said her favorite part of her job is helping students.
“Most of the things I do, I’ve done because I saw a need,” Groth-Putnam said. “There was no training for student organizations, so I started [the Engineering Student Life office]. When we opened this office in 1999, there were 34 student orgs. [There are] now over 80, just within engineering.”
Groth-Putnam established a variety of programs within the engineering school, including Gone to Engineering, a day-long program designed to welcome students to UT and the engineering department. Groth-Putnam also helped to bring to campus LeaderShape-Texas, an international program designed to teach integrity and ethics to college students of
“[I want students to know] that I really cared for them, about them as people and really cared that they learned about themselves and that they were able to, through the things I did — gosh that’s going to make me cry — gain skills that they could use the rest of their life,” Groth-Putnam said. “I feel like I’ve done that through things that [the Engineering Student Life office] has done, like LeaderShape-Texas.”
Kelly McQueary, undergraduate coordinator in the chemical engineering department, said she has worked with Groth-Putnam for many years and considers Groth-Putnam a part of her family.
“She’s just a really great person and a good friend that happened to also be a colleague,” McQueary said. “That’s hard to find on campus. I think she’s the real deal. She’s got a great personality, and people love to talk to her. She’s really great at providing constructive criticism that doesn’t feel like criticism. She just reinforces what you already know.”
Groth-Putnam said some of her most memorable moments at UT came when she was working at Jester.
“The last year I was in housing at Jester, I caught the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Groth-Putnam said. “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are flood, famine, pestilence and death.”
Groth-Putnam said she encountered a small flood in the dorms, a less than agreeable co-worker, two student deaths and an ice storm which prevented food from reaching the residence halls.
“I had to organize all the resident assistants to run the cafeteria so we could feed people,” Groth-Putnam said of the ice storm. “I had worked in camps when I was in college, and so I knew how to run an industrial kitchen. We had folks grilling cheese sandwiches and making breakfast and doing all kinds of stuff. It was fun.”
Clarke Rahrig, electrical engineering senior and president of the Student Engineering Council, said he has worked closely with Groth-Putnam in the Engineering Student Life office.
“When Glynda’s around, you know things are OK and any problem that comes up she can help you,” Rahrig said. “She has been almost a staple of the student life portion of engineering, with all the different organizations she’s created. She’s always tried to put the students first and I think that’s a really, really awesome thing to do, especially when you’re in a university this big. It makes you feel a little bit less like a number.”
Groth-Putnam said she is planning to spend her retirement traveling.
“My husband and I are planning to travel and [play] lots of golf,” Groth-Putnam said. “We really want to go to New Zealand and see the sets for ‘Lord of the Rings’ — my husband and I both love it.”