Becky Lade, PHR, began her tenure at DMU in 1986 on the third floor of the old St. Joseph’s Academy building that once stood on campus, near quarters that previously housed the former Catholic school’s nuns. There were bathtubs in the restrooms and uneven floors that caused unlatched filing cabinet drawers to roll open. And while Lade initially had no idea what osteopathic medicine was and applied for the job only on the recommendation of a colleague of her husband, Tom, at Iowa Methodist Hospital, she quickly learned she enjoyed working in human resources.
“I did not find HR; HR found me, and once I was at DMU, it just captured my heart,” she says. “There is so much opportunity to impact employees and the organization as a whole in very positive ways.”
That’s what Lade did for the next 33-plus years. She was promoted to director of human resources in 1994 and chief human resources officer in 2014. She extended her retirement date to July 31, 2020, as the University continued to navigate the pandemic while searching for her successor.
“She was working up to the very last minute,” says DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D. “She is a consummate leader and was our voice of reason. I really valued our relationship, her loyalty to the University and to me.”
The feeling is mutual: Lade served on the search committee that hired President Franklin. “That will stick with me for the longest time. I remember thinking, ‘This is the person we need at this time.’” Helping employees be the best they can be requires a lot of heavy lifting: negotiating employee benefits for health insurance and determining vacation time, paid family leave, professional development support and more. Maintaining compliance amid ever-changing and sometimes contradictory regulations. Mastering the massive technology advancements of the past three decades, including three complete overhauls of DMU’s HR system.
“After the second one, I said I’d never do another one,” Lade laughs. “But all these efforts were huge collaborations with the HR team, the accounting staff and other staff.”
Colleagues say they miss Lade’s collaborative and generous spirit. “After working with her 24 years, Aug. 3 was a challenging day as extension 1485 was silent for the first time in my tenure at DMU,” says Mark Peiffer, CPA, M.B.A., senior vice president and chief financial officer. “She had a daily commitment to providing great employee benefits, was always looking for improvement and focused on fairness for each and every employee.”
Although retired, Lade is excited about watching the progress on DMU’s new campus in West Des Moines, and she will continue to be proud of her former employer. In dealing with family members’ health issues, she always asks the providers where they got their degrees.
“It warms my heart when I see those graduates out there who I didn’t teach, but I contributed to their education,” she says. “It’s why our mission is so powerful. We are providing the education for future health care professionals – and during a pandemic, when has that ever been more important?”