Bears, Baking & Buildings with Kay Pauley

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After almost 25 years at U-M, Kay Pauley in many ways exemplifies “institutional knowledge.”  In her role as workspace integration coordinator for University Human Resources, she knows every piece of furniture in every office, in every location, as well as in two Wolverine Tower storage areas she calls the Emporium and the Annex. She also manages an off-site furniture inventory located – where? “Let’s just say it’s in an undisclosed location,” she laughs.

The first-ever winner of the Commitment to UHR Award, Kay coordinates everything from office configuration to property disposition and major renovations. During the course of a normal day, you might find her ordering a commercial dishwasher for a U-M childcare center, working out logistics for new hallway carpeting or dealing with a basement flood.

But you might also find her serving up a homemade cake covered in miniature fondant sombreros, delivering a custom stuffed bear, or, on a certain weekend in the spring, hiding 2,000 candy-filled eggs around Wolverine Tower, ASB and the children’s centers.

The annual egg hunt has been a labor of love for about 10 years, says Kay, brought back by popular demand when she stopped for a couple of years. Egg hunt aficionados know that most of the goodies are found within a week or two, but Kay says that staff continue to stumble upon the hidden eggs for months afterwards, sometimes right up until the following year. (Rumor also has it that hundreds were once found in the office of an unsuspecting coworker after vacation.)

Kay is also well-known around B&F for her handmade memory bears, which have turned into a thriving side business. “I’ve always sewn, ever since I took home economics in school,” she says. “I used to stop at the fabric store after school and then come home and sew what I was going to wear the next day.” Orders for “Kay’s Bears” now come in from coast to coast, despite no advertising beyond word of mouth and her personal Facebook page. Many requests come in for bears embroidered with a new baby’s name and date of birth, or for bears made out of a loved one’s clothes.

Someday Kay hopes to retire to the southwest and devote more time to her creative pursuits, but she’s not done with U-M yet. “I really appreciate the variety and the autonomy I have in this role,” she says. “I love it all – that’s why I’m not retired!” With that, she heads off to consult on new office space. All in a day’s work.