‘Voice of Western’ dials up retirement

For the last 30 years, Sandi Patterson has been the ‘Voice of Western’ when anyone calls the university switchboard. Patterson retires this Friday after 36 years.

Paul Mayne // Western NewsFor the last 30 years, Sandi Patterson has been the ‘Voice of Western’ when anyone calls the university switchboard. Patterson retires this Friday after 36 years.

Why do I know that voice? It happens to Sandi Patterson every now and then when people speak with her. They recognize the voice; they just cannot place the face.

Maybe this will help.

Welcome to Western University. If you know the five-digit extension number of the person you wish to reach, please enter it at any time during this announcement.

Ah, that’s where you’ve heard the voice before – the same voice for the last 30 years.

Originally from the Ottawa area, Patterson, a Senior Telecommunications Analyst with Information Technology Services (ITS), moved to London in 1979 to share an apartment with a girlfriend and work at Western. In 1986, the university converted to its first digital phone system and required someone to record the message for all incoming calls.

The job, Patterson said, did not require an audition.

“It was more, ‘Here, read this and practice. Let’s see if it’s any good. Let’s hear what it sounds like. Now change that and change that,’” Patterson recalled with a smile. “When it first started, I used to go over to the technical services recording studio booth and record it there and they would then upload it. Now it’s simply done on my phone right here at my desk.”

THEVOICE_patterson1

Outside the opening and closing greetings, which remain consistent, voice messages are re-recorded on a regular basis depending on specific circumstances, such as emergencies or snow days.

Patterson, who retires tomorrow (Jan. 15), has been through three phone changes in her time at Western – most recently the switch to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) about five years ago. While technology is always changing, she is confident the university’s current system will be in place for some time.

“Since I first started, it has morphed into something huge. But a phone system is a phone system; a dial tone is a dial tone,” she said. “It’s been very exciting and I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve gone through, and led, the entire university community through these huge phone changes.

“I think the VoIP will be here for a while. We are upgrading constantly and I think there will be changes, with more features, but it has a pretty decent shelf life.”

As far as her own shelf life at ITS, Patterson knew the time was right.

“It’s time,” she said. “I think everybody knows when it’s the right time. For me, my husband is retired, so me not being retired starts to impact some of our choices. We have family out West; we’re older and like to get away from the winter. When you do four or five weeks in Florida, it starts to impact the rest of your travel choices.”

There may be another reason for retirement. Six grandchildren are looking to spend more time with grandma.

“Were the grandchildren perhaps a trigger for this? I wouldn’t disagree,” she smiled.

While all the delights of retirement become official tomorrow, Patterson is unsure if her voice will continue to live on. Perhaps someone else will be tossed a script and told, “Here, read this …”

You may not recognize Sandi Patterson’s face, but you definitely know the senior telecommunications analyst’s voice.

Paul Mayne // Western NewsYou may not recognize Sandi Patterson’s face, but you definitely know the senior telecommunications analyst’s voice.