If you look in the staff directory of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, in between names of academic researchers, you’ll see a photo of a non-human: Pandora the cat.
Yes, Pandora is as important as the other staff. Her staff identification card reads “VALID: all nine lives.” She has served (with honor) as the school’s mascot for the past 18 years.
Her hard work of meowing, napping on laps, and keeping researchers company in the Member Saloni has paid off. This past February, her supervisor, Dylan Rogers, who is the assistant director at the ASCSA, gave her the performance review every worker strides for: “Exemplary.”
A collegial co-worker
Rogers talked with Ladders about what compelled him to write a performance review for a cat. “We play it up because she’s everyone’s favorite part of the school,” he said. “She’s always here, always saying hello. She’s usually at the front desk, so when [visitors] come, she’s the first person they see.”
On her origin story, Rogers surmised that “she was probably a stray. We get a lot of strays in Athens.”
A blurb announcing new staff back in 2001 suggests that Pandora arrived on the school compound one day and never left: “after a concerted effort on her part, the persistent feline won the hearts of nearly everyone at the School.” Once adopted, the school held a naming contest, which earned her the name Pandora.
Pandora waits for a raise
Rogers took the performance review very seriously.
“I am sorry that you did not fill out your Self-Evaluation form for this year’s Performance Review. It would have been nice for us to have a written record of your own thoughts and suggestions,” Rogers wrote. “While we did not schedule an interview to meet in my office, you certainly made your opinions known to me every time I walked past you (when you are not sleeping). In last year’s performance review, I asked to stop scratching our colleagues at the Front Desk, which you have accomplished. You are helping to create a respectful and caring work environment.”
Rogers also noted her strong work ethic of staying in the office “even on the weekends!” Her collegiality was also appreciated: “those who come into the Member Saloni are greeted with an occasional ‘meow,’ or in the very least, a casual nod of approval.”
Still, like all of us, Pandora must prove herself before she gets a raise. Pandora’s suggestion for fresh fish every week was “noted,” but would need to be discussed with the Administration.
Good with faces
Most of the staff at ASCSA are Greek and they tolerate and love her to a certain degree, but it’s the U.S. academics far away from home missing their own pets who have “come to love Pandora” and can be seen chatting with her.
“Pandora will remember people even if they come once a year,” Rogers said about Pandora’s superb skill in remembering which members gave her treats.
Present in meetings
“It’s nice to have her around. It makes life a little easier,” Rogers said about the cat that patrols the school’s gardens and hallways because she is “concerned for the safety and security of the premises.”
This makes sense as there are unseen physical and mental health benefits to pet ownership. “Lower blood pressure and higher resilience to heart attacks” has been found among pet owners. In the high-pressure of academic institutions, it can be soothing to have an animal purr your worries away.
This is why other cats have also found good jobs. Oreo, also a black-and-white cat, acts as receptionist in a nursing home and has similarly impressive accomplishments.
Flexible to changes in her schedule
Everyday work situations like moving offices can be stressful. When Pandora had to change offices after spending 15 years in the Wiener Lab, it was a little “jarring” for her but she rallied, and can usually be seen on her throne in the Member Saloni: a soft plaid chair.
That’s a lesson of flexibility that can be passed down from cat to human: work hard, make yourself indispensable, and remember to make it very clear that your work should be paid adequately, whether in money or in treats.