‘The Years Have Gone By So Fast’

‘The Years Have Gone By So Fast’

KAREN ROBINSON stepped aside from her full-time role of managing the VMI football program’s office operations April 30.

Robinson Praised As She Retires From VMI Football Office

Editor’s note: The following story was written by Wade Branner, associate athletic director for VMI.

As May begins, the VMI football office feels very different.

On April 30, Karen Robinson, who has handled VMI football administrative duties the past 47 years, stepped aside from her full-time role of managing the program’s office operations.

“I just felt the timing is right,” said Robinson of her decision. “The years have gone by so fast. It’s just been a fun time.”

It was Aug. 28, 1972. The price of gasoline was 36 cents a gallon. The No. 1 song on the Billboard Top 100 that week was “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. Watergate was months away from dominating the newspaper headlines.

And a wide-eyed Karen Robinson reported for her first day of work for the VMI football program after being brought on board by legendary athletic director Tom Joynes.

“They advertised the position and Mr. Joynes interviewed me and hired me,” recalled Robinson. “On the first day, I was just so young, and I wanted to do everything perfectly, and I was thankful for the job. And it’s been great. I had no idea that I’d be here this long.”

Robinson quickly established a professional, courteous, and dependable reputation that has been her trademark throughout her career supporting the VMI football program.

She served nine head football coaches and five athletic directors. Her work desk moved from Cocke Hall to Cameron Hall to Clarkson-McKenna Hall. She also assisted with the sports information office and wrestling program during a portion of her tenure.

“To work 47 years in a college athletic department as the primary administrative assistant to the football program is a fantastic accomplishment and likely will never to be equaled,” said Donny White ’65, former athletic director, baseball coach, and football assistant coach. “Karen Robinson performed her responsibilities with competence, grace, humor, and caring for almost a half century. I am sure all of the former VMI football coaches, as well as the present ones, stand with me today to salute her for a job well done.”

Mike Strickler ’71, who served as VMI sports information director from 1977 through 1992, echoed those sentiments.

“I certainly enjoyed working with Karen during my 15 years as SID,” said Strickler. “She paid attention to details which was so important in the world of sports information. However, being able to adapt to as many head and assistant football coaches as she has served over 47 years is a tribute to her ability to cooperate with others, to adjust to an ever changing work environment, and probably most importantly to her personality. There are only a select few individuals in the country who have so successfully filled this type of administrative assistant’s role. Congratulations to her; she will be sorely missed in the football arena at VMI.”

Robinson said it wasn’t difficult adjusting to different head coaching administrations and all the changes it brought. She credits that as a key to her longevity.

“The head coaches have been so good to me, and I love my job,” she said. “It really wasn’t hard (adjusting to different head coaches). They were easy to get along with. Hopefully, I did the job well and they were pleased with that. They’ve just been all so nice.”

Robinson, who plans to return helping VMI football in a part-time role in the future, hopes to spend the coming summer months practicing with her Southern Gospel singing group Ladies of Mercy in anticipation of an active concert schedule once COVID-19 restrictions are eased. Gardening, house decoration projects, and visits to son Ethan who lives in Oregon and daughter Tess who resides in the Detroit area are also in the plans.

Robinson was presented with the VMI Achievement Award Thursday, April 30, in a ceremony recognizing her service to the Institute. Husband Wes, who serves as VMI’s director of information technology, joined her for the recognition. Because of social distancing, the gathering was limited to 10 people, far fewer than would normally be attending for such an event.

Reflecting on her career, Robinson says absence of daily interaction at Clarkson-McKenna Hall is what she will sense most when she steps away for the interim.

“What I’ll miss most is seeing the coaches day to day. They’ll come in and sit down and we’ll just talk. They’ve been like my second family and this is my second home here.”