Almost every St. Louis U. High student has walked by the desk of receptionist Mimi Hartung in the theater lobby and heard her warm good-morning as they trudge into the school each morning. Almost every parent has spoken with Hartung over the phone or has dropped off a son’s lunchbox or an envelope to her at the switchboard—belovedly nicknamed ‘Mimi’s desk.’ And almost every SLUH faculty member has seen Hartung guide a freshman to their classroom. While Hartung moves on from the SLUH community to help care for her aging parents, the hospitality and unconditional love that she has shown these past years stays behind in the memories of the students, parents, and faculty members that she has touched.
Hartung came to SLUH in 2013 to replace the previous receptionist Kim Gohl, who had been at SLUH for 16 years before retiring. Hartung had big shoes to fill, yet for the past eight years, Hartung has transformed the role from being receptionist at the main desk, greeting visitors, signing visitors in, answering phones, and accepting packages, to being an essential part of the daily operation at SLUH.
“When I was hired, Mr. Laughlin told me that the most important thing about this position was to be the face of the SLUH mission,” said Hartung in a Prep News article published in 2013. “Each day I look out at the statue of St. Ignatius, and I’m reminded that I am here to offer hospitality in the St. Ignatius mission.”
Hartung from day one has never stopped living out that Ignatian mission. Hartung has brought both a sense of dedication and focus to her work imbued with a spirit of compassion and sensitivity.
“She has a great personality as far as her calmness and her ability to multitask everything that comes her way and keep things organized,” said Director of Facilities Joe Rankin, who is her supervisor. “She has juggled everything that we ended up throwing her way. Her overall wonderful ability not to be overwhelmed with all the tasks that can be given to her and her willingness to end up doing more have made her a perfect fit for the job.”
This past year, Hartung has taken a more active role in students' lives in the morning by volunteering to help check in students in the mornings as they enter the school. Arriving at SLUH before 7:00 a.m. each morning, Hartung, according to many students, has brightened up their mornings.
There's a lot of times that it isn't a good morning until I hear that ‘good morning’ from her,” said senior Rob Stevens. “Just having that every single day is so cherished. I can tell you just having that consistency with every time I enter and leave the building, having her right there smiling, saying, ‘have a good one’ or ‘good morning’ has really made my SLUH experience.”
“If she can't help you, she can at least listen and sometimes that's all anybody wants. The boys walk in and they see that kindness and welcoming spirit. And then think ‘today might be a difficult day but she's so nice I might as well try to make the best of my day,’” said secretary to the principal Renai Lowry.
A woman for others, Hartung has also volunteered to help other faculty members when they are overwhelmed with work.
“She is kind of like my 911 for so many things because I use her when I have mailings or I'm up against a deadline,” said Lowry. “She's always really willing to do whatever it is I need to have done on the project. And I'd say, the other ladies in the office feel the same way so she helps with a lot of things, especially in the summer when we're trying to get ready for the start of school.”
While Hartung is already entrenched in work, particularly behind-the-scenes work, and can be seen constantly answering phone calls or typing on her computer, she also makes it an important aspect of her job to talk to students.
“She has so many things going on all at once. If you talk to her for more than five minutes, you will definitely hear that phone ring. She has a lot on her plate,” said Stevens. “But still, no matter what, when you interact with her, she will give you 100 percent of her attention. I know that when I go to talk to her I will get all of her focus, which for someone who has all of that happening, is pretty remarkable and commendable.”
For senior Ocean Okohson-Reb, his relationship with Hartung through his four years has been very meaningful and personable.
“A couple of weeks ago when she heard that I got into college, she was smiling and really getting excited, she almost jumped for joy,” said Okohson-Reb. “That genuine joy, happiness that we shared together that day, it really reminded me of the amount of people that care for me and have seen me grow up through this journey here. For someone that is about to begin the next chapter of life, it's really great to have people that have been there since the beginning supporting me.”
One of the many relationships that Hartung has built throughout the years working here is with the SLUH band program. Hartung has had two sons play in Jazz Band— trombonist Joseph Hartung, ’18 and guitarist Christopher Hartung ’20. For the final concert, Hartung will be in charge of giving all the graduating senior band students boutiques, and she has also been organized giving gifts to Kathleen Matecki, who has donated much to the SLUH band program.
“We can't take for granted her intellect, and from that intellect comes this sensitivity to all sorts of people who have walked through our front doors,” said Pottinger. “I think she's often the face of SLUH, and I have really appreciated her support toward the band program.”
With the search for a new replacement coming on the horizon, the SLUH community will miss her friendship.
“I will miss her outgoingness that she shows every day to all the students that come through each day,” said Okohson-Reb. “You won't meet a person at SLUH that doesn't know Ms. Hartung. She's always there when we walk in every day and every time we leave. She is always there if need something. I feel like that's integral to having a functioning community.”
“I will really miss her friendship. She has always been someone that I could talk to,” said Lowry.
As for Hartung, she will miss the intellectual spirit and curiosity that fill the chatter of students in the atrium next to her desk.
“One of the earliest memories I have of my time here also took place during the summer session. I had a work grant student who would sit at my desk in order for me to have a lunch break. For three straight days I returned to my desk to find a bunch of sophomores having a spirited debate about something,” said Hartung. “It made me laugh to ultimately realize that they were figuring out and arguing about a math puzzle proposed by Mr. Hannick. I thought ‘only at SLUH’ would we find that kind of animation and delight around math!”
With heavy hearts, the SLUH community says goodbye to Hartung, remembering the great service that she has done for SLUH and never forgetting her spirit of hospitality and love that she showed students, faculty, and parents each day.
“Remember the story of Mary going to be with Elizabeth? That is the touchstone for me,” said Hartung. “We are called to try to be Elizabeth, welcoming the one who is carrying the unseen Christ, but also Mary’s unseen burdens. Be the one who gives love and support. I hope that, if nothing else, you guys felt my care for you. I hope that you’ll remember how that felt to be greeted by someone who is interested and that whatever you do in the future, you’ll try to create a supportive environment for others.”
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