August 23, 2002
Melburn Bradley is a throwback to the old school. To a nostalgic era when people sought good employers and stayed. The 63-year-old New Orleans native, father of six children and grandfather of 12, found a place he calls his second home on June 11, 1962. And he never left. In May, the medical school recognized Bradley's 40 years of service to Tulane's Department of Surgery, where he began as a lab assistant and now is the staff driver.
On a whim, the young husband and father stopped by Tulane University School of Medicine in 1962 to pursue steady employment. He landed a job in maintenance. He transferred a month later to surgery when then-lab assistant Emile Washington mentioned an opening. It was then that Bradley traded his uniform for a white coat.
Over the years, the faces and facility have changed. But Bradley has remained a fixture on the eighth floor of 1430 Tulane Ave., seeing the development of the health sciences center unfold. And he's witnessed some things come full circle, like the career of current department head Robert Hewitt, a resident at one time.
Bradley's tenure is somewhat of an anomaly, an exception to the unlikely odds of an employee spending his entire working life in one building, on one floor. According to a 2000 study by the U.S. Department of Labor, the average worker bides by his or her employer for 3.5 years. Even among older workers, a mere 28 percent work for the same company for more than 20 years.
"I never thought about doing anything else," said Bradley. "I've never felt a need to go anywhere else. I enjoy working with the department." The staff reciprocates. "He's never, ever, ever, refused to do anything. He's unbelievable," said Karen Hebert, office manager.
Vanessa Angelety-Lee agrees. Bradley runs department errands for Angelety-Lee and other secretaries. "He's always willing to go out of his way to help," she said. "My job is to make other people's job easier to do. Whatever they ask me to do, I do," he said, which might include shooting photos on his off time.
"For 15 or maybe it was 20 years," he worked in the lab anesthetizing small animals for Edward Krementz, emeritus professor of surgery, while performing other duties such as taking care of linen, mail and errands. After a stint as the office clerk, he is now the appointed driver for the surgery department.
Once a month, Bradley drives Bernard Jaffee, professor of surgery, to Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville, La., so that Jaffee can perform surgery and teach residents. The pair listens to jazz recordings ranging from Dizzie Gillespie to Sunny Stitch and Louis Armstrong, whose photo hangs in Bradley's office. Bradley usually arrives at the office two hours before he's due because he drops off his wife, Consuella, to work at neighboring Charity Hospital.
Rather than return home, his day gets started by making coffee, running photocopies and inventorying supplies. Bradley does freelance photography, shooting events like the Zulu Ball, and he's occasionally spotted around the office with camera in hand. And some dayson his vacation daysit's not odd to see him stop by and pick up the mail. So, what's the secret to reaching the milestone?
"The Bible says it's better to give than to receive. I think if I approach life with the right attitude then I'll be able to treasure some things," he said. Bradley also likens himself to a spoke in the wheel. "The little spokes mean a lot. You have to have the spokes there. I'm just there to keep the wheel rolling," he said. As he approaches 65, thoughts of retirement have crept into his plans. Sort of. "If it's okay with the department, I would like to cut back to three days a week. You have to stay busy, you know But I may want to come in for a fourth or fifth day."
David Leiva may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 email@example.com