Retiring Fidler wants to be remembered for being helpful to all
November 15, 2023
In looking back over her time at King’s, Phyllis Fidler ’04, Manager of General Accounting & Financial Information Systems, remembers a pivotal moment. Gerry Killan, then-Academic Dean, told her how excited the faculty office was about her joining them and not to let one person’s negativity ruin her success. “I believe this is the moment I realized what an incredible place King’s was, and that this could be somewhere I would stay for a long time,” she says.
Fidler would stay at King’s for 30 years, over half her life.
It all began when her husband saw a two-line employment ad in The London Free Press for the position of Clerk in the Student Finance department. She met for an interview with the late Gord Forrington, then-director of Plant and Personnel; John Miller, the controller; and Student Financial Services Officer Marilynne Davies, who would be her first supervisor when Fidler began working at King’s in August 1993.
She worked as a clerk in Accounts Receivable in Student Finance for two years. Even from her first days at King’s, she was able to modify every role she was in to get to the position that best suited her skills. Working in Student Finance, she could work on any computer system available. She was sent to Western’s campus to enter OSAP information into their system for King’s students. “I was commended for my ability to adapt to all technology as it was being rolled out,” Fidler says.
For nine months of the year, she was part time in Student Finance but worked additional hours in External Relations/Alumni until, in May 1995, she was hired as a secretary in the Faculty office. The role was administrative, completing course outlines, supporting exams, scheduling, and helping with program development and other academic needs. She worked with many departments but mainly the Economics, Business and Math department (now the School of Management, Economics, and Mathematics) and Sociology.
In 1996, Fidler began working towards her Administrative and Commercial Studies, Social Organization & Human Relations degree at King’s while still working on campus. “I was so thrilled to be at King’s. I was able to complete my degree, at what I consider one of the best institutions in Ontario, while holding down a full-time job,” she says.
She would complete her degree and graduate with distinction in June 2004, and received the Pat O’Bright Award from King’s for the highest average by a part-time student.
In 1998, she took on additional hours, working as a web designer in IT on King’s first website, which was created by Dr. Alan Pomfret, Professor Emeritus and lecturer in Childhood and Youth Studies. Pomfret had formally asked Fidler for her assistance and she was able to be in IT for a full day each week. “Many of the policies and procedures on the current website were initially done by me, by finding the authors and hoping there were electronic versions of the documents. There were very few electronic versions, so my job was to make these documents electronic and then, using HTML and source code, add them to the website,” she explains.
At the time, Fidler says Tom Jory ’87, former Director of Information Technology Services, was the IT department and Todd Morrison, current Manager, Applications and Web Development, was a work study who supervised other work study students who did the classroom setups. “This was one of my most enjoyable positions. Todd and Tom made work incredibly fun,” says Fidler.
However, when the position for a payroll assistant and the recording secretary for the Board of Directors was posted in late 2001, Fidler said no one was surprised that she applied. Halfway through her degree, everyone knew she was working towards a return to Finance.
As the successful candidate, Fidler began in the role in December 2001, working with Jeanette Grant, Payroll/Benefits Officer, and Miller.
“This position gave me a broad knowledge of how King’s was run administratively and was the best move I could have made. Working with John, he began giving me a number of additional tasks and the one I continued to do right up to the end was the salary budget. Though our information system has changed significantly, John’s mentoring gave me the knowledge that I continue to rely on to this day,” she says.
When she left to begin her self-funded leave to complete her degree, Fidler was looking at a PAOA position that would open up when Jane Pettitt, who worked in Finance, retired. The position became available the same month that she completed her degree.
“The interview was right after I had a marketing exam. Luckily all went well and Jeff Major, (now Vice-President Finance and Support Services), Miller and Sandra Gosselin, the new HR Advisor, felt I was ready for this role,” Fidler remembers. She began as the Assistant to the Controller on May 1, 2004. “This was and is one of the best roles I could have ever hoped for at King’s,” she says. “Jeff has allowed me to develop this position to suit who I am and the skills I brought to the department,” says Fidler. Initially, Fidler covered Accounts Payable, did salary budgets, and tracked research positions and teaching assistants by manually entering hours into a spreadsheet and sending it to Payroll.
However, in 2005, she became very involved in the search for a new financial information system (FIS), along with Major. “We settled on the only system that brought finance and payroll into one system. This saved an enormous amount of time, but I then was spending more time on working with the system,” she remembers. She became the specialist in the new FIS and Human Resources Information System (HRIS) software as her position evolved into being Manager of Accounting and Financial Information Systems, which includes cash management, overseeing accounts payable and purchasing, and being a source of information for many at King’s.
Through the years, Fidler has served on numerous committees including the Salary Committee, the United Way Committee, and the Wellness Committee, and the COVID-19 Principal’s Advisory Group, among many other roles.
It is ironic that her journey at King’s came from her husband’s notice of the employment ad, as King’s has become a family affair. She says her most fond memories are when she graduated, but also when her daughter, Dr. Tara Bruno ’05, Associate Professor of Sociology, and son Denny ’10, graduated. Her son Dylan is in his second year of a four-year Bachelor of Arts program with a major in Philosophy and a minor in Psychology.
Fidler says it has been great to work at the same place as her daughter. “We both have great respect for each other and our diverse accomplishments,” Fidler says. Both were in their third year of university when Fidler took her leave. Fidler was in a three-year program while Dr. Bruno was in the fourth-year honours program. They had one course in common but with different professors, different text books and different teaching methods. “Tara and I managed to still get the same mark. I am not competitive normally but in this instance, I found this quite amusing,” Fidler remembers.
“The fact that we all came to King’s when the benefit allowed us to go to any university shows how much we think of the education you get at King’s. King’s has not only allowed me to get my degree, I have taken other courses as needed, such as project management, managerial communications, HR courses through Fanshawe College, and a leadership certificate from Western. These courses allowed me to gain the knowledge to do the work that was becoming necessary as technology became more important in our daily work lives,” she says.
In retiring from King’s, Fidler says she thinks people will remember her as “a constant, someone to answer questions and resolve issues.” She hopes she will be remembered for being available to everyone on campus.
“I have always tried to be available and if I was unable to help, I always tried to find the correct person to help. I’ve always tried to stay positive and be helpful and that is what I would want people to remember,” she says.
This sentiment is echoed by another family connection for Fidler: Tiffany Chisholm, her niece and the Purchasing Coordinator at King’s. The two have carpooled since Chisholm began at King’s 12 years ago.
Chisholm describes Fidler as “a social butterfly who got to know as many people as she could at King’s.” Chisholm says her Aunt Phyllis (although she doesn’t call her that at work, much to Fidler’s chagrin) is always interested in people’s stories, making connections and finding out how she can help people on their journey in life.
“She would reach out to whomever she knew to find ways to help you,” says Chisholm.
Dr. Bruno, in speaking about her mother, says “Without you, I would not exist. Without you, I would never know King’s exists. Without you, this place, our second home together for so many years, will never be the same.”
Chisholm says that Fidler’s retirement will “leave a hole at King’s” and says Fidler will be known for the impacts she has left on many people during her time here at King’s.
“She truly believes that the people are what make us a place to be.”