A veteran in the office of structural engineering marks 35 years of service

Author: Gina Vozenilek
When Barbra Streisand was singing “The Way We Were” and the American public was adjusting the rabbit ears on their television sets to get “Happy Days,” Molly Stetler and her trusty typewriter were already working for Purdue.

When Barbra Streisand was singing “The Way We Were” and the American public was adjusting the rabbit ears on their television sets to get “Happy Days,” Molly Stetler and her trusty typewriter were already working for Purdue.“I was just out of high school,” Stetler recalls. At the time, she could not have predicted that her tenure in the School of Civil Engineering would outlast the primetime versions of the song and the sitcom, nor that those titles would still pertain to her career.

For 35 years Stetler has supported the faculty and students of the structural engineering group. “Molly is the structural engineering office,” remarks Robert Frosch, professor of civil engineering. Some of her many roles include scheduling visits by prospective graduate students, assisting with the review process for graduate student admissions, providing graduate thesis format checks, scheduling and organizing meetings and seminars, and assisting students in obtaining required course materials.

Currently 11 faculty and 50 graduate students rely on her as they carry on with the business of advancing structural engineering. She is the person behind the scenes making sure that everyone can do what they have come to Purdue to do. Stetler is the point person when graduate students and professors need to order materials for experimentation in the Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research. “If someone needs any special materials for experimentation in the Bowen lab, I get them,” she says. “I order a lot of strain gauges and concrete. Also bolts and washers, lumber, and cotton balls. I don’t know why they use cotton balls.”

Things have changed just a little bit since the original happy days of working in the structural engineering office. Take that typewriter, for example. “When computers came along way back when, it was frightful,” Stetler admits. “Moving to computer-based work was a big step at the time.”

But like the science going on around her, things keep moving forward. “There is continual change. You have to be willing to go with the times and change too,” says Stetler, whose ability to adapt and grow has helped her stay so vital to the structural engineering team.

Of course, it takes a winning personality and a strong work ethic to make it to a 35-year anniversary mark in any field these days. Stetler has those things going for her, too. “Molly is well-organized and jumps on work immediately.  She is a very dependable and loyal employee—always willing to help,” says Frosch of his longtime colleague. “Molly is an integral part of the structures area. She has been a part of the department ever since I arrived, and I just know that Molly will be there when I need her.”

It also helps job longevity if you like what you are doing, as Stetler does. “The people in the structural engineering group are just great to work with,” says Stetler.

And she enjoys the annual influx of new energy as a fresh crop of engineers arrives on the scene. “I love seeing new students each year,” says Stetler.

Stetler has built a happy career in the structural engineering office, and she has no plans to leave it just yet, even though her 3-year-old granddaughter claims a good deal of her attention these days. “I hope I am going to be here
a few more years,” Stetler says.

As for her granddaughter? “Of course we hope she will come to Purdue.”