As the month of their retirement begins, we sat down with Jack Seagraves and Laura Hairrell to get their perspective on OneNet, gain some words of wisdom and find out their post-retirement plans. OneNet has been truly fortunate to have found such committed employees and friends in both Jack and Laura. Here is what they had to say.
When did you first start working for OneNet and how did you find yourself here?
Jack: I started with OneNet about 16 or 17 years ago. I was working for the Regents beforehand for approximately 13 years. I came over with Gary Smith when he became the vice chancellor of finance. Ken Ferguson and I came over with him from the OU Health Sciences Center as his IT people.
Laura: It’s hard to remember when OneNet became OneNet. I worked for what, at the time, was called Televised Instruction System. They changed to Educational Television Network (ETN), then OneNet came along. I started working for OneNet in 1994, but I started working for the Regents office in May 1984. I graduated from Eastern Oklahoma State College on May 11, and I knew someone who worked in guaranteed student loans, and she suggested I come and apply. The rest is history.
What is your road not taken?
Jack: My road not taken is probably being more proactive. There are a lot of times I was more quiet or reserved when I could have been more proactive with some things. You never know where being more proactive would have taken you.
Laura: I try not to think about what could have and should have been. I am a firm believer in we are here for a reason, and we need to do the best we can at what we are doing.
How has your job most changed since you first began?
Jack: The speed. The speed of the processors, of the Ethernet and of it all. Also the quality of people who have come up like Paul Tibbitts, James Deaton and Brian Burkhart is tremendous. All these guys around me make such a contribution. What they are doing for OneNet is just incredible. They bring strength. Back when I was first in this field to now, they are real strong.
Laura: This organization has changed from being one with a very small number of employees to almost triple its size. When I first started working at ETN, we had maybe 15 people working for us, and as you can see, we have quite a few more than that. Of course technology changing has made us change with the times as well. We change with the times. Therefore, we must grow with the times.
How has the world changed the most since you first began working?
Laura: My world has changed, because I’m a little country girl who came to the big city. My co-workers liked to listen to me talk, because they said I had an accent. I don’t hear the accent of course, but going from a town of 500 people to a job where you work with 500 people is a big change.
Why does hard work pay off?
Jack: Hard work pays off, because it means you are focused on a task. Hard work comes in many facets from physical labor, mental labor, to actually just staying involved. You are always pushing forward and going forward. If you stand still in this world it will leave you behind.
Laura: You get to retire!
What’s the secret to happiness?
Jack: I think it’s about being content with what you are given. I also think that working out has a lot to do with burning off stress. This job comes with a lot of stress, and stress can get to you. It gets to some more than others, but it’s important to have a way to handle that. Running and working out helps alleviate that stress and keeps you sane.
Laura: I don’t believe there is a secret. We have control over how we feel and how we allow people to make us feel. You have to learn to deal with yourself more than anything.
What will you remember most about OneNet?
Jack: I’ll remember the people. I’m surprised by all of the different personalities that come into OneNet, how they all fit and how everyone gets along and tries to help each other. It is more of a family. I see the Regents the same way.
Laura: I will most remember all the people and the knowledge I gained about how fast things change.
What was your best day on the job?
Laura: The first day I started was the best, because I was scared to death coming here. I was a little country girl coming to the city. I knew no one, but when I got here, everyone made me feel a part of them. I never felt out of place.
What made you decide to retire?
Laura: Because I can! Originally I began thinking about it, so I could spend time with my mom. She has since passed, but I decided to still retire. I am doing it for me.
What are your post-retirement plans?
Jack: I ride bicycles as a hobby, so there are a lot of states I want to ride across. I have found that each state has its own type of beauty, and I want to experience that. That is another reason I want to retire. There are so many bike opportunities, and I have to say that I can’t go because of work. I want to say, “Yeah I can go.”
Laura: I am going to play house, meaning I am going to do the things I never had the time to do. Cook, sew and paint. Oh, and sit on my porch and drink coffee. On July 1, I’ll be on my porch drinking coffee.
Story and Primary Photo by Jessica Freeman, Strategic Planning and Communications Intern Summer 2015