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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh instructor Grace Lim has killed only three stories in her 20-plus years as a journalist.

The tough subjects include a real-life mercenary, a Chinese mobster and a religious zealot. Add Judy Schultz, program assistant for the UW Oshkosh journalism department, to that list.

Schultz will retire in June 2010 after 43 years of service, marking the end of a journey that began at the same time the journalism department was created in 1967. After more than four decades of working with journalism faculty, staff and students, Schultz couldn’t understand why anyone would want to read an article about her and was reluctant to be interviewed.

Schultz’s uncanny familiarity with journalists’ tactics and a desire to be the “motor behind the machine” helped her elude Lim’s quest for a compelling story.

“I’ve always been the behind-the-scenes person and have gotten used to someone else being out in the front,” Schultz said.

But after further insistence from a determined student writer, Schultz relented.

Schultz’s duties for the journalism department included handling enrollment of students in journalism classes, making sure each met prerequisites, organizing the annual Northeastern Wisconsin Scholastic Press Association (NEWSPA) conference held annually at UW Oshkosh and managing the department budget.

“Judy is the go-to person. She knows what’s going on in every aspect of the department,” said senior Mariah Haberman, an assistant in the department.

Stop the press!

Schultz has seen the scenery change significantly since 1969, when the department graduated four students. Back then, she used a typewriter to help compile stories for The Advance, the student newspaper at the time, and the yearbook.

“Students would be up all night, sleeping over in classrooms, and I would have to wake them up when I got to work in the morning,” Schultz said.

She also recalls a mix up with the local mafia in the 1970s, when journalism students were a little too nosy.

“I’m quite sure we had some issues with things that should not have been in the paper,” said Schultz, who was too apprehensive to elaborate.

Those in the department are just as apprehensive to move forward without Schultz.

“I don’t know if anyone is going to be harder to replace than Judy,” said Mike Cowling, chair of the journalism department. “It’s quite impressive for one person to be as dedicated as Judy, and she does so much more than is in her job description.”

As for Schultz’s retirement, she plans to stay active in the Oshkosh community and pursue her gardening passion.

“I kind of miss just being able to enjoy the nice spring weather,” said Schultz, adding she will miss the people that have made her experience so enjoyable. “I will definitely miss many of the students and faculty; they kind of become family after all these years.”

Added journalism professor Julie Henderson, “It’s difficult to articulate all that Judy does for the department. Her job description encompasses so many divergent tasks. But also, she seems to be able to connect with every student and with every faculty member, quirks and all.”

Pictured: Grace Lim, left, and Judy Schultz.