The respect that Sandra Obrin had for her parents translated in to a fulfilling life because of great lessons learned. Those same lessons helped Obrin become a caring wife and mother, and have also guided her to be successful in her current position as administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at CSU-Pueblo.
Obrin originally grew up in Pueblo as one of four siblings, she said. Her father was a gym teacher and Obrin recalled the times when he brought home dodge balls and other sports equipment for his children to enjoy over the weekend. He also needed the help from his children to develop certain programs, she said.
“He came up with a program in District 60 for handicapped kids,” Obrin said. “He would have us pretend that we were paralyzed from the waist down and we had to sit on skateboards and go through obstacle courses.”
The relationship between Obrin and both of her parents was a great one. She remembered the times that her mother would try to make homework more bearable by having fruit for her kids to eat, and how she always had snacks waiting for them when they got home.
“We called her the domestic goddess,” Obrin said. “She was the traditional mom at home waiting for the kids to come home. She’d have oatmeal cookies and milk.”
Though the relationship she had with each parent was different, they accomplished their collective goal of preparing her and all of their children properly for life, she said.
“They did a wonderful job,” Obrin said.
After graduating from South High School in 1974, Obrin decided to attend what was then the University of Southern Colorado, where she would meet her husband after being grouped with him in psychology class. Obrin knew she had a great guy because their first date was a Neil Diamond concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, she said.
He was also able to take the intimidation from her father.
“He was kind of afraid of my dad when he first met him,” she said. “You know how kids say their mom or dad has the look, well he had these ice blue eyes and he just had the look.”
Though Obrin enjoyed her time in college, she felt that it was not what she wanted to do at the time, she said. Obrin decided to take a break from school and instead take a job as a staff accountant for a Certified Public Accounting firm.
During that time, Obrin gave birth to what was supposed to be a 10 pound boy, but instead ended up being twin girls.
“We didn’t know we were going to have twins until they were born,” she said. “They said you’re just going to have one big boy because they could only hear one heartbeat. Low and behold there were two girls in there, one was up and one was down and their hearts were on top of each other with the same beat the whole time.”
While she enjoyed her time with the firm, Obrin worked 60 hours a week for 15 years and decided it was time to finish her bachelor’s degree, she said. Despite not being great at math, Obrin decided to pursue a degree in accounting.
“The funny thing is I’m not good at math but I can do accounting,” she said. “I love auditing and doing the numbers.”
Obrin graduated from USC in 1991 with a degree in accounting. She gave credit to her parents for their continued encouragement.
“My parents always did push for the higher education. They paid for everything like books, tuition, paper and pencils,” she said. “They made sure we succeeded and now we’re all doing the same with our children.”
Two of Obrin’s siblings have children of their own who have also provided the same support to them that they received from their parents, she said. To further continue the legacy of their parents, Obrin and her siblings sponsored a $750 scholarship through the Sons of Italy since 2003, and Obrin’s younger brother, a professor at Kenyon College in Ohio, started a scholarship foundation in their memory as well.
“If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be where we are and have what we have,” Obrin said. “My sister is a retired teacher for gifted kids, my older brother is retired from the Air Force and my younger brother has a PhD and is a professor.”
Obrin’s father passed away in February 2002, and her mother passed away six years and five days later in February 2008. She believes that it wasn’t coincidental that she died so close to the date that her father had, as her parents had a very strong relationship that started when her father was 15 and her mother was 13, she said.
Since her siblings live in different parts of the country, it isn’t always easy for the families to get together, she said. One of the last times they all saw each other was in 2008 when they gathered together at the Five Points area of the Arkansas River to grant their parents’ final wishes of spreading their ashes there together. It was a spot frequented by her parents for many years.
“They were soul mates,” she said. “When they passed away they had 52 years of marriage.”
Married life has been great for Obrin and her husband as well. They have been married for 31 years and are both looking forward to doing a lot of traveling after Obrin retires March 2014. In the meantime, Obrin will continue to enjoy her time at CSU-Pueblo, she said.
Obrin decided to come back to the university in 1995 as a sales associate for the bookstore, she said. She received her start in administration when she was hired as admin II for the Hasan School of Business. In 2000, Obrin was selected for her current position as admin III for the CSM, and has taken pleasure in seeing students succeed.
“I love the first day of fall semester when you see the new kids come in and it’s like watching them grow,” she said. “You hope for success for everyone that comes through here.”
She joked how she will never forget how a biology student asked her on the first day of class if she thinks he’ll need a pencil.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes,” Obrin said.
If you were to ask Obrin for advice on making it through college, she would share words of guidance that she would undoubtedly give her parents credit for.
“Don’t let little things be your downfall,” she said. “You’ve got to want to learn and if you have that ambition nothing should stand in your way.”