UD oracle retires after 47 years

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Student workers and faculty surprised Sybil Novinski with a reception to thank her for her contributions to the university. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

On Thursday, Sept. 21, Sybil Novinski clocked her last hours at the University of Dallas after 47 years serving in various roles from archivist to associate provost, or even as a Lit Trad professor.

At a surprise reception she was joined by an array of former student workers, faculty and staff who came to congratulate her not only her resoundingly positive impact on the UD community, but also on her exemplary life.

While this is  a closing of a chapter in UD’s history, many are confident that the Novinski name will rank among the most prestigious in its history.

“Many UDers to come will not know who she is, but there is only a UD to come to because of a select number of crucial people in our history, and she’s one of them,” said Dr. Scott Crider, who was among those with Novinski on Thursday.

Even though her presence on campus may be lessened, her impact will be felt for many more years.

“We are forever grateful for Sybil’s contribution and gift to our institution.,”said co-worker Trang Crider, who also attended the reception. “Archives is something that we all will cherish and appreciate for years to come. Things will change, no doubt, but I am sure that Sybil’s footprint will still be around,”

Beyond essentially single-handedly rescuing UD’s history from what Scott Crider calls “the dumpster,” Novinksi and her husband, professor emeritus of Art Lyle Novinksi, facilitated  camaraderie among many key university figures.

The most popular form of hospitality was the parties they held at their home.

“When my wife Trang and I arrived in the mid-90’s, Sybil and Lyle would throw fantastic parties: people would meet from different departments and factions, and, under the influence of their food, wine and hospitality, become a community,” Scott Crider said. “It made a difference at school: we all knew we were part of the extended Novinski family.”

Perhaps that is the most important gift from the Novinskis; they not only opened up their home, but they  made UD a home for artists, scholars and most importantly nearly 50 years of students.

Other consequential parties earlier on in UD’s history helped introduce key figures like Patrick J. Haggerty, one of the largest donors to UD, and O’Neil Ford, the famous southern architect who designed most of UD’s buildings.  

Sybil Novinksi’s most visible legacy will likely be the UD Archival Project/Special Collections.

“I saw [the archives] when it was just only a small, bare and dusty room filled with boxes that Sybil asked people to send her,” Trang Crider said. “At the beginning, she would email everyone to save all UD things — I mean everything, even just a receipt — and then send them down to her office. Little by little, with the help of some student workers, it has transformed into an impressive place where visitors and alumni come to learn about and look for UD’s past and present. Her diligence, commitment and love for UD made that office the way it is now. She started it from scratch, and without any prior training in archives. She told me that ‘you just learn, find out how to do things and just do it.‘ ”

One of those student workers who assisted her is junior Parker Novey.

While Novey learned much about the history of UD, he also learned much about life.

“The only time I actually felt like I belonged at UD was with her in the archives,” Novey said. “There I was free from my own ineptitude to admire the beauty of the past. I was purposed with bringing the memory of those who truly mattered into my own consciousness. Only with Mrs. Novinski was I truly a student. What I learned was gratitude. That the world did not begin with me and that I need to thank daily those who have made my life a reality. Frankly, I learned more about life, love and family than I ever did or will reading Aquinas or Aristotle. The world made sense in her presence because she brought to it joy, thought and order.”

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