Gail Harden, MS : Advocacy and adventure in retirement
Gail Harden’s June 2009 retirement from her job as a UCSF IT professional didn’t keep her away from the campus community for long.
Almost immediately she joined the UCSF Retirees Association, attending luncheons and – never one to shy away from adventure – joining its hiking group. Now she’s the association’s vice president, plus serves as secretary for the Council of University of California Retiree Associations, which meets biannually.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and I still really enjoy my visits to Alumni House for meetings and other events,” she says.
Around the World and Back Again
Harden was born and raised in Passaic, New Jersey, where her family owned a soda fountain. “I grew up with an ice cream spoon in my mouth,” she jokes.
After earning a degree in mathematics at The College of New Jersey, she taught high school before beginning her international adventures. Hired by the Department of Defense to teach military kids, she spent time in the Azores and Okinawa. She married a fellow American and moved to Germany, where she ran the base’s education center, helping soldiers get their high school diplomas and take college courses. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in education through USC’s overseas program. After five years, the couple returned to the U.S., settling in San Francisco and welcoming their son, Christopher.
Looking for a new job in her new city, she was interviewed at UCSF by Sandra Norberg [link to Norberg profile] (her future colleague at the UCSF Retirees Association). She landed a position as a research assistant for Quinn Whiting-O’Keefe, MD, a pioneer in electronic health records, a job that would shape the rest of her career.
She soon became a programmer and then moved up to manager (then director) of clinical applications for Hospital Information Systems. “I got to work with all kinds of departments across campus, helping with patient information systems,” she says.
After 18 years at UCSF, Harden’s path diverted, spending seven years as an IT project manager for McKesson Pharmaceutical. “I worked on tons of different projects and got to work right in the heart of the city, at Post and Market,” she says. “But I always thought about going back to UCSF.”
When she saw an opening at UCSF for a position as project manager for a new research database, she jumped at the chance.
Now retired for more than 10 years, Harden continues to be a dedicated member of the UCSF Retirees Association, spearheading the annual reception for new retirees and participating in numerous other events.
She is also dedicated to line dancing. She takes classes at senior centers in Daly City and attends Saturday night Country Quicksteppers events at a local community center. “It’s good physical exercise but these are hard dances that we have to memorize, so it’s also good mental exercise,” she says.
Plus, the UCSF retirees hiking group still gets her out on the trail about once a month. “Each month, one of us takes a turn leading a hike wherever we want,” she says. “I like to do urban hikes, like the Barbary Coast Trail. But we almost never do the same hike twice. It’s new every time.”