On Jan. 2, 1975, Irene Martinez and Steve Wood began working at CSULB, she in Academic Personnel and he in Campus Stores.
For the next two decades they would talk from time to time, always by phone, always job related. Whether they actually ever crossed paths during that 20-year span, well, neither one can quite recall. In 1995, however, mutual friends on campus thought they would be a good match. Apparently they were right, because in 1997 they were married.
“Sometimes that’s what fate is,” said Irene, pointing out that early on they discovered other things they had in common – they both drove SUVs and had each previously held sales jobs at Sears, she in Cerritos and he in Santa Fe Springs. “If we had met 10 years earlier, it may not have worked out.”
“She’s probably right about that,” said Steve. “I think the timing was right and we were both ready to settle down.”
And then, after 32 years, feeling the time was right to step down, they both retired from the university on Dec. 31, their careers spanning the exact same time period.
Coming from Sears, Irene began as a clerical assistant in Academic Personnel and is retiring as Academic Personnel Manager. Steve began in Campus Stores and is retiring as supervisor of Central Receiving and Property Office.
So, what’s next for the couple?
“I tell everyone that I think it’s going to be a year of doing whatever comes my way and contemplate new horizons,” said Irene, who received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1998. “Plus, there are a lot of wonderful programs here, like lectures and performances at the Carpenter Center, that we can now go to and not feel like we aren’t getting away from work.”
“I am sure those are some of the things we will do,” agreed Steve. “First, I have to get acclimated to not having to get up early every morning. I get up every day at 5 a.m. and am here by 7 a.m. I’m a morning person, so I will still get up, but now I can relax, have a cup of coffee and read the paper.”
Prior to coming to CSULB, Wood served in the Navy’s submarine service from 1970-74. When he got out, he went back to his sales job at Sears and shortly thereafter began working at CSULB.
His mother Shirley Wood retired in 1991 after 25 years on campus, first in the business office and the last 23 years at the department secretary in the history department.
“I pretty much got the job because of connections,” joked Wood, noting that his mother told him of the opening. “Back then getting a job on campus because of connections was a much more common thing.”
The Woods have been Lakewood residents for nine years and although they don’t have any children of their own, they have “wonderful nieces and nephews” and plenty of other family members to spend their time with.
“We know how lucky we are to be able to do this,” said Irene. “It’s going to be hard to leave here after so many years, but we have a lot of long-term friends here that we will continue to treasure. We both agree that we have been fortunate to have worked with so many special co-workers over the years.”
“The thing I will miss the most is the camaraderie I have here,” said Steve. “There are 50-100 people I deal with daily and weekly on a work basis so that will be a big change.”