If you ever sent a piece of mail while at Virginia Tech or received an admissions offer packet, the odds are that Alexis Johnson probably helped get it to its destination. Johnson, a postal assistant in Mail Services, has kept the university’s mail moving for all but two of her 45 years at Virginia Tech.
It’s a job that doesn’t get much attention, but one that’s essential to the day-to-day operations of the university. She processes thousands of pieces of mail along with UPS and FedEx packages every day and has handled an estimated 200 million during her career.
One of Johnson’s most important duties is sending out the offer packets and financial aid letters to newly admitted students every spring. Johnson sends out about 16,000 packets each year.
She began at the university in 1970 as a housekeeper and soon found herself witnessing one of the most dramatic events in the university’s history. About 100 students had locked themselves in Williams Hall to protest their lack of voice in university governance. The Virginia State Police forcibly evicted and arrested the students.
“I watched it from Pamplin Hall and saw the police with their big dogs. The students were very passionate,” said Johnson who cleaned up the building afterwards. “I had to deal with their sleeping bags and trash and remove candle wax off the floors.”
Johnson only planned to work at the university for two years, but as her self-imposed deadline approached she was offered the opportunity to work temporarily in mail services. That short-term assignment turned into a career.
“Eventually, it dawned on me that I had been here twenty years. I liked my job so I kept working,” she said.
Today Johnson puts the postage on all first class mail that goes through Mail Services before it goes to the post office. Computers are a vital part of her every day work, but that wasn’t always the case.
“We used a manual scale and had to remember all the mail prices in our heads, but now it’s all done by computers,” said Johnson. “We got our first computer in 1989 and I wouldn’t even turn it on at first. It was intimidating.”
Computers and the increased use of electronic communications has dramatically changed Johnson’s job. There used to be three meter operators, but Johnson, who handles between 1,000-2,000 pieces of mail each day, is the only one remaining.
“Alexis is very dedicated and is a great resource with a wealth of institutional knowledge. It’s hard to imagine all the lives she has impacted over the 45 years she has served Virginia Tech,” said Ginny McCoy, associate director of Mail Services.
Outside of work, Johnson enjoys singing in the choir at the First Baptist Church on Clay Street in Blacksburg. Also, she has sung at events around the New River Valley including the Crooked Road Festival.