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Three honored for 40 years of service to W&M

  • Kay Domine:
    Kay Domine:  She began her time at W&M as the university archivist and has since become the library's liaison for construction projects.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Teresa Lemons:
    Teresa Lemons:  Lemons says she gets the most satisfaction from the relationships she has built with students through the years.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Bonnie Walker:
    Bonnie Walker:  Beginning in the Commons at 15 years old, Walker quickly learned how to cook, gaining lifelong friends in the process.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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During the Service Awards Ceremony on June 16, three William & Mary staff members will be honored for 40 years of service to William & Mary: Kay Domine, Teresa Lemons and Bonnie Walker - Ed.

Kay Domine

Kay Domine has always had a talent for jigsaw puzzles, and it’s one that’s served her well during her 40 years at William & Mary, where she connected the necessary pieces to establish the university’s first professional archive and help renovate Swem Library.

“I’ve really enjoyed watching how the library world changes and how the staff at Swem has been so open to these changes,” said the special projects librarian. “By and large, we’ve changed so much, and it’s so much prettier and it’s open and welcoming and I love it. This is just such a different library than it was, and yet the goal is all the same.”

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Domine grew up in Flint, Michigan, and earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After working at Western Illinois University for three years, starting that university’s archives, Domine was hired as a university archivist by William & Mary, which was also looking to build its first professional archive.

“I learned a lot of history very fast,” said Domine, who eventually became the head of special collections. “I didn’t know much about Virginia – nothing about William & Mary – so I learned a lot of history and got things going, set up all the finding aids, all of the systems.”

Much of Domine’s work on the archive took place before computers were used by the library, and so she used card catalogs.

“I loved my color-coded cards; I was famous for my color-coded cards,” she said.

But when the first computer came to library departments for their use, it was Domine who had fought for its purchase.

“And then things got a little easier, and now everything is pretty much automated down there as much as they can,” she said. “I think all my cards have been thrown away.”

After about 25 years in the archives, Domine was given a new challenge: to be the liaison for the library as it planned and executed a major renovation and addition project.

“So I went to construction meetings. I did the planning. I worked with architects, facilities planning, and that was so fun. It was all different,” she said. “I love buildings. I love architecture. I love all of that stuff. I learned how to read construction drawings and do all of that, and I interacted with people that were so different than the people I usually interact with, so it was a whole different language.”

The project, which was completed in 2005, is one of Domine’s proudest accomplishments at W&M.

“It was a big job, and I loved it. I just loved it,” she said. “It was so fun. After 25 years doing something, it was really nice to have a new project.”

Since the completion of the project, Domine has continued to serve as the library’s liaison for all building projects, from leak repairs to the media center’s recent renovation.

In January, Domine will retire, saying goodbye to the library that she helped build. Although she’s looking forward to spending some more time at home with her two cats and working on jigsaw puzzles, she will miss the people she’s worked with throughout the years and the sense of teamwork in the library.

“I really enjoyed working at Swem through the years,” she said. “I’ve been through five directors, so there’ve been a lot of changes, changes in priorities, changes in focus, but the library world had become so different than it was, and it’s been fun seeing that.”

Although Domine has thought constantly of plans for Swem Library throughout the last four decades, she said she isn’t yet making any for retirement, something that’s a little scary for her.

“Scary and I’m looking forward to it, the next great adventure,” Domine said.

Teresa Lemons

The day of the Employee Appreciation Service Awards marks the end of a memorable week for Teresa Lemons of the Cohen Career Center.

On June 8, she’ll help her husband celebrate his birthday. On June 9, she and her husband will celebrate 42 years of marriage. And tomorrow, she’ll be among three people honored for 40 years of service to William & Mary.

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“Straight out of high school I went to work in Richmond then transferred to William & Mary,” said Lemons, a native of New Kent who still lives there. “I used to think that William & Mary was a private school and then I found out it was a public institution. I thought, ‘Well, it’s close to home,’ and once I got here I thought, ‘I like this place. I think I can hang out here for a while.’”

Lemons worked in Human Resources for two years and at the School of Education for 12 years before joining the Career Center more than a quarter-century ago.

“I worked previously with the academic side then came over to the Career Center,” she said. “Definitely, I enjoy the student affairs side of it better.

“It’s seeing kids grow and mature from year to year. We see them come in as freshmen and see them as seniors and all you can say is, ‘Wow they sure have mature a lot.’ My student assistant, who worked with me for two years, graduated this year. She came to me and said she wanted to say goodbye. She said, ‘When I come back to Williamsburg, I’ll make sure to come back to see you. You’ve been more than a friend, more like a family member to me.’ It’s those types of relationships you make with students that make it all worthwhile.”

Lemons said she has no idea how many students she’s interacted with at the Career Center, but carries a hope with her regarding her service.

“I’m a very giving person, but a humble person,” she said. “I would hope that I would have touched a lot more than I think I have.”

Bonnie Walker

It was the mid-1970s, and Bonnie Walker was just 15 years old when she began as a food service worker at William & Mary.

“Miss Alice Johnson was the head baker in the bakery shop, and she asked me if I wanted a job,” she recalled recently, as she closes in on her 40th year in Dining Services. “She said to come on up and apply, and they hired me.”

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There was no way that Walker could have known as she walked in and was assigned to the simple task of making doughnuts that the offer would end up introducing her to people with whom she’d work side-by-side for decades, that it would provide enough stability to raise three children and now 14 grandchildren, and that she’d see tens of thousands of William & Mary students (whom she helped feed) graduate.

Neither did she know how to cook.

As a teenager, she came to depend initially on Lawrence Charity and Guy Brown to show her around the kitchen. The three would end up spending their lifetimes working together. (Charity passed away last year).

“Mr. Brown, Mr. Charity and the others, those people cooked my Christmas dinner,” she said. “I had never cooked Christmas dinner. But one day I went to work and said, ‘Okay, my Thanksgiving food is right here. Can y’all fix it for me?’

“They told me no. I said, ‘Huh?’

“They said, ‘No, you’re coming in here this time, you’re going to do this yourself.’

“And that’s how I learned how to cook.”

In the years since, Walker has worked just about every station in the Commons Dining Hall, or “the Caf,” including six years in the football practice room. She’s now doing prep work – the cutting and dicing, portioning and pre-cooking that makes a kitchen line run smooth later when the cafeteria opens. But students remember her, and come ask for her by name.

“You come into contact with different cultures, people,” she said. “Every student is different. You come across 1,500 different personalities a day. Some of them might be having a bad day, but you can say one thing to brighten up their day and their whole attitude will change.”

Overall, the work has remained consistent since the 1970s, she said. Students still need to be fed and Dining Services still feeds them. The only noticeable difference is that students of decades past called people “Mister” and “Missus.”

“These kids now call you by your name,” she said with a laugh.

And even though she was at first years younger than the students she was feeding, she says she never envied them. There weren’t many jobs for young black women in Southeastern Virginia at that time, and she felt grateful to be employed.

“In the ’70s, we took jobs because we needed jobs,” she said. “Then the jobs smoothed out and it got better. And in the ’90s the money started going up, and you started making decent money.”

The stable work at William & Mary has allowed Walker to build her own house down the street from her childhood home in the Grove neighborhood of James City County. She has been married 38 years to her “best friend,” and says her family is her life. She plays bingo and spends every Saturday in special mother-daughter time.

And her motto, guided by her strong faith in God, is “trust and believe.” She peppers it throughout her conversations, a constant reminder to others that good things come with hard work and good sense. And in that, she’s a living lesson.

Jim Ducibella, Cortney Langley and Erin Zagursky contributed to this article.