University Ombuds Officer Marsha Wagner is retiring after 22 years, University President Lee Bollinger announced in a statement on Monday.
“It is not often that we have occasion to honor the service of someone who has held a senior post in University administration for more than two decades as the office’s only occupant and who was herself central to its creation,” Bollinger said.
The Ombuds Office, established in 1991 with Wagner as officer, serves as a confidential conflict-management resource for students, faculty, and staff to discuss their concerns, including issues of harassment and mistreatment.
Wagner said in a statement that she felt honored to be asked to establish the office, which has had three separate associate ombuds recently. Wagner said the office has dealt with 14,514 cases—an average of 600 per year—in which an individual or group had approached the office with a concern.
“It has been immensely rewarding to help them develop a new perspective or plan a constructive approach to resolution,” Wagner said. “I have had the great good fortune to serve three exceptional presidents—Michael Sovern, George Rupp, and of course Lee Bollinger—and to work with countless other talented and accomplished administrators, faculty and students at this amazing institution. I have found it deeply gratifying and stimulating to have been part of the Columbia community.”
Bollinger called Wagner “a leader in developing Columbia’s policy against sexual harassment and successfully advocated for extending employee benefits to same-sex partners.”
“It is a testament to the progress made under the stewardship of Marsha and other University leaders that these advances now seem perfectly commonplace to many Columbians,” Bollinger said.
Wagner, who started at Columbia as an assistant professor of East Asian languages and cultures in 1975, has served three terms on the Board of Directors of the Ombudsman Association and has designed national professional development programs for organizational ombuds.
Bollinger commended Wagner for both the extent of her service and her deep roots in Columbia’s community.
“Whether measured by the duration of her service, the number of students, faculty, and staff members she has known and supported, or the fact that each of her children and their spouses holds a Columbia degree, Marsha Wagner has been an exemplary member of the Columbia family,” Bollinger said.