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Connecting with Georgette Sutton

It took almost 30 years for UNE’s lead switchboard operator to reveal her motivation for staying at her job for so long. As the spouse of the late Bill Sutton, a faculty member who worked for the University for 29 years until he collapsed in his office, Georgette was preparing to beat her husband’s employment record.

Georgette grew up in Jay, Maine, one of 16 children. She moved to Hills Beach in 1954, when her husband was hired by St. Francis College as a math professor. She raised her eight kids in a home “just down the road” from what the children called “Daddy’s school.”

Although she didn’t become an actual employee until many years after her husband passed away, Georgette is emphatic that she “worked for the University” right from the start of her husband’s employment. She was part of a group that “volunteered for everything,” according to Associate Dean Paulette St. Ours, who joined UNE in 1970. Georgette helped organize weekly whist parties and summer craft fairs as fundraisers as well as potluck suppers and the annual Christmas gathering for faculty and spouses. There was much to keep Georgette involved.

When her husband eventually became Dean of Men, he developed very strong ties with the students, and he and Georgette became surrogate parents to many of them.

The students sometimes joined the family for dinner, came over to do their laundry, or stayed in the Sutton home during school breaks. Georgette even mended students’ torn clothing and at Thanksgiving gave each student one of her homemade pies.

It is fitting that after being so tightly woven into the fabric of UNE, Georgette was hired by the University to work as, of all things, a switchboard operator. For someone so deeply connected to the University, she is the perfect person to connect members of the UNE community to one another and allow the world to find them wherever they may be on campus. For the longest time, she memorized every name and the phone extension that went with it.

The job was a natural complement to her passion for quilting, a craft she took up after the death of her husband. She has made an estimated 500 quilts since then, including a commemorative one created after the attacks of 9/11, which was featured on the Today Show, and which she presented personally to Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York.

It makes perfect sense, then, for someone who bonds with every person she meets to see nothing but beauty in a finished quilt, each square firmly attached to the ones abutting it. “There is no such thing as an ugly quilt,” she stated bluntly. “No such thing.”