September 22, 2009 — Frances T. Peyton is stepping down after 22 years at the University of Virginia.
Peyton, secretary for the Faculty Senate for the past 16 years, retired this month.
"Frances Peyton was a gracious and steady presence for the Faculty Senate," said nursing professor Ann B. Hamric, who chairs the senate. . "She was our institutional memory and a very professional colleague and I will miss her."
Peyton did not reach a particular milestone or have an epiphany. She just was ready.
"I thought it was getting to be time for me to step aside," Peyton said. "It's time for someone else to do this." An interim secretary has been appointed by the president's office.
Peyton has kept the gears of the senate running smoothly, keeping track of senate business, scheduling meetings, arranging calendars and keeping the minutes. She also helped the senate enter the digital age, as she maintained its Web site and posted its business online.
Ricardo Padron, an associate professor in the Department of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and senate chairman during the 2007-08 academic year, described Peyton as "amazing."
"She was the person who ran the day-to-day work of the senate with little supervision," Padron said, noting the senate will miss the continuity she provided. "The chairs depend on her. She knew the narrative of the organization."
Peyton's first job at the University was in the president's office in 1987, under then-president Robert O'Neil. Jeanne F. Bailes, clerk of the Board of Visitors, remembers her from those days.
"She was always a good, conscientious worker and a very pleasant person to be around," Bailes said. "She was always thoughtful, accommodating and a dedicated worker."
After eight years in the president's office, Peyton was looking for a different challenge. The secretary to the senate was retiring and Peyton was offered the position. The half-time post grew to full-time as the senate expanded its role..
Over the years, the senate's executive committee became more active. The senate handled the Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards and created a dissertation-year fellowship for graduate students. And as the senate expanded, Peyton worked closely with each new chairman.
"They were amazing and easy to get along with," she said. "I learned something from each one of them."
And the senate leadership appreciated her skills.
"It is a challenging job because each year you have a new boss," said former senate chairman Robert E. Davis, an environmental science professor. "Frances had the amazing ability to keep us all on track, with the different personalities and priorities. She was able to keep the senate running smoothly. I think one of her main contributions was the consistency she brought to the senate."
She also worked with many individual senators and committee chairs, and found them to be a very friendly group.
"The faculty members here are amazing," she said. "I really appreciate the senators because they are so multifaceted."
Peyton, a Charlottesville native and currently a Gordonsville resident, said she has few plans in retirement.
One project she wants to tackle, however, is writing her memoir.
"I started writing my memoir once and got some of it done." she said. "It will be mostly memories for my grandchildren."