Woman works way up the ranks at IUN
April 30, 2013 1:22PM
Marianne Milich, a native of Glen Park, and now of Pine Island, has worked her way up the ladder at IUN where she started out as a part-time hourly employee and now is CFO. | Jeff Manes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 2, 2013 6:04AM
“Grain by grain, a loaf. Stone by stone, a castle.”
— Serbian proverb
Marianne Milich and her husband, Andy, live in the town of Schererville, have a Crown Point mailing address, and a Merrillville phone number. You guessed it; they live in Pine Island.
Our interview took place in her office at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. Milich is campus chief financial officer there.
But Milich hasn’t always been CFO at IUN. Not by a long shot. Marianne Milich started out with the university as a part-time hourly employee with no college experience.
“I grew up in Glen Park (neighborhood of Gary) and graduated from Lew Wallace High School,” Milich began. “There used to be a pavilion with a wading pool right where we’re sitting. They used to have summer crafts here. Little did I know, years later, my office would be here.
“When I was in high school — we lived at 40th and Harrison — we’d take the bus to Miller Beach in the summer. It was a lot of fun.”
“Absolutely. We used to watch the fireworks there. All of our football games were at Gilroy Stadium.”
Your maiden name?
“Ziza. My dad is Serbian and my mother is Greek. I grew up going to St. Sava (Serbian Orthodox Church).”
What about your mother?
“She switched over to the Serbian church.”
Bear with me, although my surname ends with an “s,” I’m not of Greek ancestry like most people assume. What are the differences between the Serbian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches?
“Basically, only the language and the culture.”
The difference between Serbian Orthodox and Catholicism?
“We’re on a different calendar — Julian. We celebrate Easter after Passover. Our Christmas is Jan. 7. We have a patriarch rather than a pope. We do have communion just like the Catholics.”
Between your maternal and paternal sides of the family, you’ve probably sampled lamb a time or two.
“Lamb on a spit is my favorite! And I love gyros.”
Milich is a Serbian name, too.
“Yes, I met my husband at a wedding the summer before my senior year in high school. Andy is six years older than I am. When we got married, I was the first person in his family to not be full-blooded Serbian in like 200 years. But they like me. Andy was born in the — if you’ll excuse the expression — DP (displaced person) camps in Italy. His real first name is Andrija.”
Did you go to college right after high school?
“I was all set to go to Bloomington (Indiana University) and had the housing all set up and everything. That August, before I left to go to school, Andy asked me to marry him. I knew he wouldn’t wait for me because like I said, he’s six years older.”
What did you do?
“I cancelled everything and married him at the age of 18. We have two daughters. Both of them are IU Bloomington grads.”
What did Andy do for a living?
“He worked at what used to be Youngstown Sheet & Tube. Andy’s retired now, but worked as an overhead craneman all those years.”
“He was a millwright at U.S. Steel, Gary Works. My dad was a hard worker with hands of gold. He used to build garages in the area and do side jobs for people such as remodeling their kitchens. That was my dad; he was always busy. He didn’t even graduate from high school — self taught.”
Obviously, somewhere along the line, you attended college.
“Here’s how it happened, the bursar’s office at IUN needed help, so I became an hourly teller during registration periods.
“In 1984, Andy was laid off. I was offered a full-time position in the bursar’s office as a teller and so on and so forth. I accepted the position. At the time, I hadn’t started to go back to school yet. I wanted to, but I just didn’t. I was in my 30s at the time, I said to Delores Rice, a former bursar here, ‘If I go to school now, I’ll be 50 years old by the time I’m done.’ Delores replied: ‘What’s the difference? You’re going to be 50 anyway. You’ll have that degree; you’ll have that paper. It’ll make such a difference in your life.’”
Words of wisdom.
“I just kinda took a class here and took a class there, but I kept going. It took me until 1998 to finish.”
Hey, you had a couple of kids and you were working.
“There was an opening in the bookstore, then I came back to bursar’s office for a higher level position. And from there, I went to financial aid. And from there, computer services. And all time, I’m still going to school.”
What happened in ‘98 once you got your initial sheepskin here at IUN?
“The actual bursar quit; I had just finished my bachelor’s degree in business administration. I took the job. Then I thought, ‘I’ve done this, now I should go for my master’s degree. That was about 2001.
“But we were implementing a new software system in the bursar’s area, so I had to quit classes. There was a job that came open as director of accounting services in about 2006. I accepted it. Then I got my master’s, and in 2008 the person who was the vice chancellor of administration and finance unexpectedly resigned.”
“Chancellor Bergland — at the time — came to me and asked if I would step into the position.”
On an interim basis?
“Oh, yeah. I said, ‘Well, I’ll try it.’ I really knew nothing about the budget; it was a $48 million budget. I didn’t have a lot of experience in all that. But, I tried it.”
Good for you.
“I eventually applied for the job full-time. They did a search, and I actually was selected for the position. And here I am in 2013.”
Marianne, I’ve said it before. Some of the worst bosses I had in the mill were the 22-year old engineers straight out of Purdue or Rose-Hulman who tried to tell a 40-year man like your father at U.S. Steel how to do his job. The best bosses, and yes, there were good bosses, were the guys who worked their ways up through the ranks. They’d been there, done that.
“I came from a part-time, hourly position. Then I worked my way into where I was selected for a support staff position. Now, I’m on the professional side. I think that experience has helped me a lot because I understand how people want to be treated. I try to be very fair and collegial. Everybody’s the same to me.”
I bet Andy is proud of you, and your dad would be too, if he were still alive.
“I really couldn’t have done what I have done without the support of my husband, my family and the people at IUN.”
It took a while for the daughter and wife of steelworkers to get where she’s at, but Marianne Ziza Milich got there.
Grain by grain, stone by stone.