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|Photograph by Jim Harrison|
"'Honey' or 'babe,' I'll take. Just don't call me 'dear,'" says Elizabeth Randall. That advice is mainly for the construction workers she oversees as capital project manager for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, but all would be wise to heed it. Randall managed the recently completed $23-million Barker Center project, in which the Harvard Union, Burr Hall, and Warren House were converted into a center for the humanities. A self-described "tall, loud-mouthed redhead," Randall says she gets the job done through a combination of fear and now, she hopes, respect: "It's almost palpable, the moment when these guys see that you know what you're talking about." She earned a master's degree in classical art history from Harvard's Extension School (her specialty was Minoan art), then began working at the Fogg Museum in 1984. There she learned that she was both like and unlike her art museum colleagues: she "liked to be around artwork," but she also had "the balls to go one on one with contractors." She speaks about Matthews Hall ("It has the most buttery brick; I love to rub my cheek up against it") with pleasure as heartfelt as when she describes drinking beers with her husband after work. Her favorite detail in Barker Center is in Warren House--which 12 years ago was her first project--down a hall on the way to the brick tower at the back. It's a brass, spring-loaded pull that pops from the side of a pocket door at the lightest touch of the mechanism. "The little handle slays me," she says, "because it works so well, it's beautiful, simple, and effective."
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