After 40 Years at NIH, Kosh Says So Long
In the late 1970s, Carol Kosh was heading for her last year of high school when recruiters from the federal Stay-in-School Program visited Montgomery Blair High School, offering qualified students the opportunity to make some money while continuing their education.
Having a part-time clerical job sounded good to Kosh, so she applied and promptly aced the required typing test, clocking 80 words per minute. Duly qualified, she began her career at NIH on May 24, 1978, as a GS-1 office automation clerk in NHLBI’s intramural research program.
More than 40 years later at the end of September, Kosh retired as a branch chief in the NIH Office of Extramural Research’s Division of Administrative Services. She reflected on a fortunate chance encounter that led to a professional life immersed in admin.
Day one on the job didn’t start the way she expected. After reporting to personnel for orientation in Bldg. 31—stellar typing results in hand—Kosh was directed to the Clinical Center, where the supervisor began describing…the late shift. Bewildered, the teenager wondered aloud what she would be typing at night.
“Typing? This is housekeeping,” the supervisor said, before noticing Kosh’s skill certification and realizing she’d been misdirected. “You go right back over there,” the woman told her firmly, “and tell them you’re supposed to work in an office.”
More nervous than ever, Kosh headed back to confront personnel. Eventually the confusion was cleared up and she was reassigned to a “floater” post, tackling admin jobs wherever NHLBI needed her in Bldg. 10.
Once she graduated from Blair in 1979, she became an NIH’er full time. Kosh earned steady promotions and increased responsibilities, working for Dr. Howard Kruth in the Laboratory of Experimental Atherosclerosis for the next decade and a half.
He recalled their humorous first encounter. “Not realizing that she was my new administrative assistant, I asked petite Carol in the hall outside my office, ‘Little girl, are you lost?’” Kruth said. “Actually, I was lost with all the administrative tasks that she cheerfully undertook for some 15 years. I enjoyed working with Carol and appreciated her even demeanor and dedication to our research program.”
The initial insistent nudge by that housekeeping supervisor resonated with Kosh for the rest of her career.
“During that time I didn’t see many people who looked like me in the offices,” she recalled, “so I realized that I was given a great opportunity and that I had to work hard in order to succeed.”
In the course of four decades, she married, had children and in recent years welcomed grands. NIH culture and her coworkers made the workplace feel like a second home.
“They had the best baby showers for me,” Kosh remembered. “Everybody appreciated each other and we were one big family.”
Some of her most memorable moments “were forging friendships with the patients and their families as they came for their visits,” she said. “Also knowing and respecting all of the many facets of NIH and how they all fit into the puzzle that supports the mission. I love our mission! I love what we do.”
After 27 years in NHLBI, she transferred to OER in the Office of the Director in 2005. She also moved off campus to Rockledge for the first time.
“This was a big transition for me because I went from intramural research to extramural research,” Kosh said. “I feel like I grew up at NIH and I can truly say that it takes a village to raise a child. In every phase of my career, so many people took a chance on me and I will forever be grateful for those opportunities.
“Once I became a branch chief AO,” she continued, “I realized that I stood on the shoulders of many people who believed in me and it was now my duty to make sure that I paid it forward and provided my expertise to help others succeed.”
Kosh has ushered several young people through the AO ropes. Several of her mentorees, she noted proudly, have surpassed even her own success, assuming posts beyond her level.
“I still remember all of the pushes that benefited me back in the day,” she said.
Another rewarding experience for Kosh was serving as keyworker for the Combined Federal Campaign for more than 30 years.
“NIH’ers are some of the most generous people,” she said. “We raise approximately $2.5 million per year to support various charities that are close to our hearts.”
Although she’ll miss the camaraderie and overall familial NIH atmosphere, Kosh said she wants to leave work while she’s still got sufficient health and energy to devote to personal goals.
“My plans after I retire are to spend more time with my family, travel and continue to serve others at my church,” she concluded. “There are so many projects I’ve been putting off—I’m in a knitting group that makes blankets for nursing home residents—and the grandkids are involved in so many activities I want to attend. It’s been a great 40 years, but now it’s time to say ‘so long and thanks for the memories.’”