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Financial aid director retires after 36 years at SU

/ The Daily Orange

Kaye Devesty, financial aid director, will retire after 36 years at SU. In her retirement, Devesty plans to volunteer in the Syracuse City School District, where she plans on going to high schools to help families file for financial aid.

Even from the other end of the hallway, Kaye Devesty’s hearty laughter can be heard. Her colleagues say it’s an instantly identifiable sound in Archbold North’s 200 Suite, and one that ensures a lighthearted atmosphere amid the stressful realm of financial aid.

It’s a sound they’ll certainly miss.

Last month, Devesty announced her retirement from her position as director of financial aid, effective July 1. She’s been at Syracuse University since 1977, and for the last 36 years, she has managed millions of dollars in financial aid and launched initiatives so that thousands of students can afford coming to SU.

While she said she’s ready to retire, it hasn’t set in yet that she’ll actually leave.

“But people remind me,” she said jokingly.

Devesty already has her retirement plans set. She’ll volunteer in the Syracuse City School District, where she plans on going to high schools to help families file for financial aid. She’ll go on bike rides, snowshoe and try to enjoy the winters, she said.

She also plans on visiting campus – and often – because as a lifelong Syracuse city resident, the university has become what she calls “her backyard.” After all, she can’t miss any speakers the university brings, she said with a smile.

Sitting in her small, kempt office, Devesty recited all of the speakers she has seen – the Dalai Lama last semester, which was possibly her favorite; Chief Justice John Roberts at the opening of Newhouse III in 2007; and Bill Clinton during his presidential race. She has attended the lectures of countless comedians, journalists and alumni, and silently counted them on her fingers.

“Oh, and look, this is happening,” she said excitedly, pulling out a flier from underneath a neat stack of papers. It was a promotion for the SUArt Gallery’s Noveau Risque exhibition, portraying the independence of women at the turn of the 20th century.

“Yes, I want to go see that, I’ll walk over during lunch time, I think.”

Devesty first began at SU in the bursar’s office as an account representative, and worked her way up to director of financial aid, a position she said she had never pictured herself holding. At a time when the financial aid office was located in the Women’s Building, she remembers a non-digital registration week at SU, which was “all different kinds of busy.”

Now, Devesty is responsible for monitoring grants, scholarship programs and financial aid programs, as well as speaking to families about their eligibility for financial aid, helping them fill out different application forms and sorting out any issues with loans.

Ryan Williams, associate vice president for enrollment management and director of scholarships and student aid, someone Devesty reports to, describes Devesty as a woman “so passionate about helping students that she’ll take money out from her own pocket.”

She was recently responsible for developing SU’s Shopping Sheet, where students can compare the affordability of schools like “apples to apples,” so as not to get confused by the technicalities of financial aid. Devesty works hard toward her goal of absolute transparency in the financial aid office, Williams said, and has managed to keep debt numbers low.

Williams said he admires Devesty’s knowledge of the arts, culture and music in the city of Syracuse, and said she was a huge help to him when he moved to Syracuse with his family just one year ago. She helped him learn about festivals, restaurants, places to shop and the best area for him to raise his family.

“She’s proud of Syracuse, proud of the city she’s been in for such a long time,” he said.

Amy Connors, communications manager at the financial aid office, has worked under Devesty for 11 years. While she’s happy for Devesty’s retirement, she said there will be a great void, as Devesty was involved with every aspect of the office.

Along with many more of Devesty’s colleagues, Connors said she’ll miss Devesty for her leadership and great sense of humor.

“It’s almost every meeting we’re sitting there laughing at something,” she said.

Even though retirement is on the horizon, Devesty has a busy six months ahead of her. The peak of the financial aid process is starting now, as the families of incoming freshmen begin to explore financial aid options following their children’s acceptance to SU.

The financial aid office will remain busy from now until the beginning of the fall semester as many new students go through the financial aid process for the first time. Families have a lot of questions, and with a high service standard, Devesty said she finds herself busy counseling them.

For the remainder of her time here, her goal is to make it possible for as many families to send their children to SU for four years as she possibly can.

“That’s the job that’s expected of me,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the next six months. I’m here to do my job.”

  • David C. Smith

    Kaye Devesty exemplifies what it means to be a leader and a professional. Countless thousands of students have every good reason to be grateful for her steadfast commitment to them and their families.

    It was a very great privilege to have worked with Kaye for many years.

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