When Lily D’Agostino walked into the offices of the Graduate School for her first day as the new administrative assistant for the front desk, the date was December 7, 2003. Now—exactly 20 years later—Lily’s retirement celebration will be held on Thursday, December 7, 2023.
A lot has changed since Lily took up her post. Shortly after joining the GSBS, the school relocated from the Houston Medical Plaza on Travis to its current home at the George and Cynthia Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building on Bertner. This was an exciting time for Lily, as she has always enjoyed being productive, and the move brought her an opportunity to organize the reception area and procedures exactly how she wanted (with the permission of then Dean George Stancel, PhD, of course).
Another big addition was the installation of the coffee bar. For Lily, cleanliness is key. You can often find her wiping down counters, filling coffee machines, restocking tea bags and k-cups, and making pleasant conversation with patrons.
“My favorite part of working at the GSBS has always been interacting with the students,” said Lily. “I love hearing about their lives and learning new things. They are my Fountain of Youth!”
Both past and present students who have had the privilege of getting to know Lily during their time at the GSBS have a high amount of respect and enjoy catching up with her while their coffee brews.
Ahmed Emam, a PhD student in the Genetics & Epigenetics program, considers the impact her presence has had on the community, saying “Lily’s welcoming presence at the front desk has shaped The Graduate School's supportive culture in ways that words can't capture. Her influence will linger in every smile and supportive gesture, shaping a legacy of kindness and support that will forever echo through the GSBS.”
She especially appreciates it when alumni pay her surprise visits. “When people come back, it’s a little like being a proud mother seeing the success of her children. I’m happy to have been even a small part of their journeys.”
Kari Brewer Savannah, PhD ‘12, reflects on her time at the GSBS, stating “Ms. Lily was among the first people I met during my visitation weekend for GSBS. Her welcoming smile made me feel instantly at ease, and her warm and caring personality made visiting her on good days—and on bad days—critical to the success of many graduate students, including myself. Ms. Lily has continued to bring joy and sunshine, jokes and laughter, happy tears, and lots of caffeine to my career and life in the past two decades. I am forever grateful for her support, love, and kindness—she will be incredibly missed by all as we step out of those BSRB elevators moving forward.”
After contemplating the past 20 years of her career, Lily summarizes the lessons she has learned with the following advice: Take everything one step at a time. Ensure the people in your care feel comfortable. And most importantly, treat everyone with kindness, respect, and lots of laughter.
Her favorite memories include winning the Melva S. Ramsay award in 2008, staff retreats, and the Lunch Bunch—a group of staff members who share the traditional dishes of their cultures with each other during lunch conversations.
Even as she prepares for the next stage of her life, she continues to display her sense of humor front and center. When asked what her favorite GSBS event is, she quickly replied with “All the ones that have free food.” When asked what her retirement plans will involve, she exclaimed “Cruise, cruise, and another cruise!”
Lily’s retirement celebration will be held in the Onstead Forum (S3.8012) on Thursday, December 7 from 4-6 p.m. There will be tacos, cake, and refreshments for attendees. Everyone in the GSBS community is welcome to come and partake in the festivities.
The Graduate School community is invited to leave messages to Lily on her retirement Kudoboard.