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Three employees honored for 40 or more years at W&M

  • 55 years of service
    55 years of service  Lawrence Charity, lead morning cook in the Commons, is being honored for his 55 years of service to William & Mary.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • 50 years of service
    50 years of service  Jim Barbour is so good at saying just the right thing at the right time, Lt. Israel Palencia says, that the other officers on staff regularly seek his advice.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • 40 years of service
    40 years of service  Michael Turnage, trades/utility master mechanic, is being honored for his 40 years of service to William & Mary.  Photo by Erin Zagursky
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Three William & Mary employees will be celebrated at this year's Employee Appreciation Day for reaching milestone anniversaries of 40 or more years of service at the College: Lawrence Charity, Jim Barbour and Michael Turnage. - Ed.

Lawrence Charity, 55 years

He’s known in the Commons Dining Hall as the “King of Soups.” His specialties are homemade clam chowder and a hearty vegetable soup, beloved by some 20,000 students, faculty and staff who filter through the building for their meals each week. 

Lawrence Charity, lead morning cook, arrives daily at 5:30 a.m. to begin his work. In addition to cooking breakfast, he creates delicious soups and sauces, and begins preparing roasts and other entrees to feed hungry students.  

This week, Charity will be recognized for 55 years of service to William & Mary during the College’s annual Employee Appreciation Day. When asked why he’s stayed at the College for almost six decades he replied, “That’s a hard question.”

“I guess it’s because William & Mary is a nice place to work,” he said. “It’s like we’re a family all working together.”

Charity began working on campus at the age of 22 in the storeroom of the Marketplace and doing dishes before becoming a short-order cook. The best part of his job, said Charity, is getting to know and learn about the students.

“I know all the football boys and the coaches – by first name,” he said.

Those who work with Charity describe him as a nice guy and enjoy a collegial banter with the native from Charles City who loves to saltwater fish in Virginia Beach, Elizabeth City and Yorktown in his spare time.

“He’s a character’s character,” described Larry Smith, director of operations, who’s worked with Charity for 14 years. “Everyone calls him the ‘grumpy old man.’ He has a heart of gold and the texture of an alligator. He’s a fixture at William & Mary.”

Matt Moss, director of dining services, recalled the time when Charity walked through Hurricane Isabel to get to work. He’ll do anything he can to help, said Moss, and that day he led efforts to feed some 500 students who remained on campus during the storm.

“Lawrence has always gone above and beyond to exceed expectations for the College,” said Moss. “He’s been a dedicated employee who works hard with the highest level of integrity and respect for others.”

For almost 40 years, Charity has worked in the same department with his sister, Marion Dover. The two enjoy swapping the usual barbs shared by siblings, but they “keep the fighting at a minimum,” Dover quipped.

“He’s stern, and he wants the job to be done right,” she said.

Co-worker Guy Brown, who celebrated his 58th year at the College last summer, is another member of Charity’s “family.” Over five decades the two traveled together to Florida, Alabama and New York in the early 1960s to cook meals for a summer YMCA camp.

“Lawrence is friendly and he smiles a lot,” said Brown. “He’s just a great person to work with and he’s a great cook.”

When asked what he’s enjoyed most about working at William & Mary, Charity paused and then said with a smile, “Well, you know I love to cook.” 


Jim Barbour, 50 years

He’s best known for his badge and uniform, but Jim Barbour has been so much more than a police officer during his long tenure at William & Mary.

Barbour, who is celebrating his 50th year of full- and part-time work at the College, is also a tour guide, safety counselor, property protection expert and ambassador. His boss, Israel Palencia, will tell you that, on occasion, Barbour is pretty good at breaking up a ruckus.

“Jamestown and Lafayette were playing a football game here and a fight broke out,” Palencia recalled recently. “I was in the middle of it and called for help. Jim immediately ran over and helped me subdue the individuals I was with. Initially, I thought it was one of the other officers, but when we got up off the ground it gave me a whole level of new respect for him.”

Closing in on 70, Barbour admitted that he is “surprised” that he is still working, especially when he “retired” 13 years ago – a disengagement that lasted all of two weeks.

“I didn’t know I’d be doing it this long,” he said, chuckling, “but I enjoy what I do.”

What’s most appealing to him about his usual 6-midnight shift is his interaction with the students.

“You stop and talk to students, give them safety tips,” he said. “When I’m out at night, I do a lot of community-type policing that the department doesn’t see.”

But students aren’t his only audience. There are parents of students who ask questions about the campus and safety issues. There are parents and their high-school children, giving the place an evaluation for the future. There are tourists who wander over from Colonial Williamsburg.

“You end up giving them a talking tour of the campus,” Barbour said.

Normally, it’s a thankless job, except on one occasion.

“Before I retired, I got a letter from one of the parents, and the chief gave me a copy of it,” Barbour said. “They said to the chief that all of his police officers should take notes from me..”

Palencia said that Barbour has become a trusted confidant for the other members of the force.

“He is quiet, but always knows exactly what to say,” Palencia said. “Because of this, many turn to him for guidance, both in a professional and a personal way.”

His most memorable moment on the W&M police force came 30 years ago. At approximately 1:10 a.m. on Jan. 20, 1983, the Jefferson Hall dormitory caught fire. The west wing was destroyed, at a cost of $5 million.

Barbour, who was home at the time, was called in and spent the next 24 hours on duty.

“Of all the things that have happened to me at William & Mary,” he said, “that one stands out.”

As a part-timer, Barbour is limited to 1,500 hours a year. That means that he must take most of the summer off, which might make it more difficult finding the desire to resume his duties come fall.

Not so, Barbour said. He’ll be back on campus for the 2013-14 school year.

“Regardless of his age Jim still did his job,” Palencia said. “In law enforcement, the older you get the louder the whispers get about what you will and will not do. For Jim, those whispers never existed.”


Michael Turnage, 40 years

When Michael Turnage was just a child, he spent many hours at William & Mary in and around the laundry room office where his mother worked.

Today, Turnage works out of that same building, which now houses the College’s Facilities Management department. At Friday’s Employee Appreciation Day, the trades/utility master mechanic will be honored for his 40 years of service to William & Mary.

“Mike is the ultimate perfectionist who expects the best from himself as well as those that work with him,” said Dan Patterson, associate director of utilities. “With 40 years of experience, Mike has the institutional knowledge and history of which the rest of us rely. Mike is brutally honest when he expresses his feelings but is a pleasure to work with. I have greatly appreciated his help since heading the utilities area.”

Born at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Turnage moved to Williamsburg when he was about 5 years old. Turnage began working at a local service station at the age of 14, moving on to a construction job at 17. When he turned 18, his mother asked one of the men in charge of facilities at William & Mary if there might be a job available for her son.

“He told her to tell me to come in on Monday morning,” Turnage said. “I showed up for work, and that’s where I’ve been ever since.”

Turnage began as a trades utilities helper, assisting the College’s electricians, plumbers and equipment specialists. Soon, Turnage found himself gravitating toward the HVAC shop. After about 20 years on the job, the HVAC specialists were put on teams with other facilities management workers and assigned to cover specific areas of campus.

“I liked that a lot because I did some carpenter work, some plumber work and all that stuff,” he said. “It was good because you never got bored with doing the same thing over and over.”

About 10 years ago, the HVAC specialists were reorganized into one team, and Turnage has been focused on taking care of the various pumps on campus ever since.

Throughout the years, Turnage did most of his learning on the job.

“I made a lot of mistakes over the years, but you know if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn,” he said.

Though he is not often seen – because he works above and below buildings – his work is vital to keeping the campus running.

“Most take for granted what goes on underneath the building or above them in the attics,” he said.  “There’s a lot of mechanical equipment here.”

Now with four decades of work at the College under his belt, Turnage has seen a lot of changes on campus, including the construction of new buildings, and in his job, with the evolution of technology and the addition of things like computer-operated Direct Digital Control systems.

Despite all of the changes, Turnage said that he has enjoyed the work and the people that he has worked with.

When he is not at William & Mary, Turnage – who has four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren – enjoys collecting old bottles, hurricane lamps, pocketknives and guns. He is looking forward to retiring one day and traveling the United States.

However, Williamsburg and William & Mary will always remain his home.

“I grew up here. I was a kid when I came here. I was the same age as most of the students. Now I am the age of the grandparents,” he said.