‘Ms. V’ will be missed

For 25 years Venora Frazier has served as college coordinator for Baker College. That’s nearly half of the 57-year-old history of one of Rice’s first residential colleges.

During that time she has done a lot of the behind-the-scenes work to keep the college running – from assigning mailboxes and issuing room keys to sharing all sorts of information from around campus and providing a safe haven where students can stop by to chat over a cup of tea and get a sugar high from her candy dish.

Venora Frazier, Baker College

Venora Frazier gets a round of applause during her retirement reception at Baker College.

Affectionately known to Bakerites as “Ms. V,” Frazier is retiring from her job at the end of the semester, but she doesn’t think of her work as a “job.”

“I really don’t look at my job as a job,” Frazier told students who interviewed her last year for “The Women of Rice: Our Legacy and Labor,” an oral history project of the Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality. “I consider this to be more of an encouragement ministry.”

Frazier said her role has been to help others with their quest for life. “These young people come through this door and I’m able to talk to them and get to know them and be a part of their lives, and they’re a part of mine,” she said in her “Women of Rice” interview. “And it’s so many times that people have come back and said to me, ‘Ms. V, if you had not been here, I wouldn’t have made it.’ For me, I’m thinking, I haven’t done anything, but to them, [it was] just knowing first of all that you’re there for them no matter what, and you’re supporting them.”

A number of Baker students expressed that sentiment as they thanked Frazier during a retirement reception Apr. 29 hosted by masters Ivo-Jan and Rose van der Werff.

Ivo-Jan said Frazier is a “true friend,” and Rose told her that “Baker is really what it is today because of you,” citing the college’s reputation for classiness and respect.

Resident associate Scott Solomon followed up Rose’s comment by noting that even though Baker has a complete turnover of students every four years, there’s a continuity of the college’s distinctive culture. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that Baker College has the reputation of being the classy college,” he said, thanking Frazier for maintaining the college’s image for so many years.

That classiness was evident in an anecdote shared by senior Claudia Leon, who recalled the time she was serving as room assignment chairman for Baker. Acknowledging that she is not a “patient person,” Leon said she made some inappropriate remarks about some students she was having problems with while she was in Frazier’s office. “Ms. V very calmly said, ‘Sweetheart, that’s just not allowed in here,’” Leon said. “Without Ms. V, there would be some Bakerites who would be dead,” she joked.

Sophomore Sylvia Omozee read a poem she wrote as a tribute to Frazier. The last few lines were: “Ms.V. it’s hard to appreciate your kindness, your sacrifice, your time. But somehow we must. I know … I have learned. She is the spirit of a college, beyond words our admiration of her, in this moment will last for an eternity.”

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson commented on the joy of meeting the “extraordinary people” like college coordinators “who enrich our lives with the things they do and the way they treat each other.”

He added, “There is no greater privilege for all of us than the opportunity to have had Ms. V as part of our lives because there is nobody who has brought more kindness, more grace and more beauty to all of us than the Divine Miss V.”

If you missed the Apr. 29 reception, there will be another opportunity to say “goodbye” to Frazier. Former Bakerites Jeff “Scooter” Tobin ’99, Michelle Mejia ’05, Sacha Abinader ’05 and John Higginbotham ’05 have organized a reception for Friday, May 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Baker Commons. Alumni, students, associates, faculty and staff who want to attend should RSVP via Facebook at www.facebook.com/events/1498260350395351 or via email to mejia24@gmail.com.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.