During the Service Awards Ceremony on June 17, four William & Mary staff members will be honored for 40 years of service to William & Mary: Marion Dover, Daniel Ewart, Glendora James and James "Mike" Marrs. - Ed.
As new students and their families line up for a meal during orientation, Marion Dover keeps a look out for teary-eyed parents.
“I walk over to them and I introduce myself and say, ‘Don’t worry. Miss Marion’s gonna take care of your babies,’” she said.
And that’s exactly what she does and has done for 40 years as an employee with Dining Services at William & Mary.
Dover grew up in Charles City as the youngest of nine children. When she began looking for a job as a young woman, she applied to William & Mary, where several of her siblings were already employed. She was hired to work at the newly opened Commons dining hall.
“Once I got here, I stayed. There was no quittin’,” she said. “I’m a people person. I loved what I was doing. I loved the kids, and that’s it. I just loved it.”
Throughout her four decades at William & Mary, Dover has seen the university and its dining operations evolve, but her love for her “babies” has never changed. She learns the students’ names, and she regularly encourages them. When she sees students having a bad day, she’ll sit down to talk with them. When students are stressed about exams, she’ll tell them, “Sweetheart, don’t worry about it. You’ve aced it already.”
But students aren’t the only ones who benefit from Dover’s hard work and nurturing spirit. She has served coaches, parents, faculty, staff and even world leaders – including presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and Prince Charles.
Her coworkers call her “Mama,” and she considers all of them family, including her brother Lawrence Charity, who has worked at William & Mary for 56 years.
“Each one of us depends on each other, and we get along great,” she said. “We’re just one big family there.”
Dover, who has three children of her own and four grandchildren, said that she has no intention of leaving William & Mary anytime soon.
“I just love William & Mary as a whole,” she said. “It’s been good to me. It has been.”
And she has some advice for other William & Mary employees looking to hit the 40-year mark at the university one day.
“Stay focused. Love what you’re doing. You can’t just like it; you’ve got to love it,” she said.
When you spend 40 years on campus at William & Mary, it’s bound to affect you in more than one way. This is certainly the case for computer systems engineer Dan Ewart, who earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the university before working there.
While the rapid changes in technology over the past four decades have certainly posed a significant challenge for Ewart in moving from an IBM Mainframe system to Unix servers, he says that his favorite memory is a little more personal.
“I would have to say meeting and dating my wife as an undergrad student has to be very high on the list,” he said.
Ewart is the man who keeps Banner functioning and was the person who installed it several years ago. If that sounds like a big job, it is, according to Chief Information Officer Courtney Carpenter.
“Dan is probably the hardest working guy in IT,” said Carpenter, “coming early and staying late, routinely working 10 hours a day or more.”
Lest we worry about Ewart working too hard, he does take some time off now and again.
“When Dan does get away, it’s usually to an exotic location in the Caribbean where he disconnects from the Internet and his technical job,” said Carpenter.
Asked about his favorite thing about working at the university, Ewart cites the quality of his colleagues in IT as well as the ever-changing challenges of keeping an entire campus up and running.
“There is never a dull moment with so much going on and changes all along the way.”
Glendora James is a library specialist responsible for cataloging and processing books. Since 1973, she has worked for Swem Library.
“Anything that goes out of the library for one reason or another, I’ve touched it,” she said.
Her 40 years at William & Mary have been good ones, James said, but she does see retirement on the horizon.
“Life lasts; time passes.” she said. “It’s time to spend time with my babies.” And, maybe play some cards.
James’ babies are her three grandchildren and one great-grandchild, two here locally and two in Georgia. The cards? Pitty-Pat, a rummy-like card game she learned in childhood. James gets together weekly with “the girls” to play.
Still, she said she knows she’ll miss getting up and coming to work every day.
James started out as a clerk typist when the library still used a card catalog system and has served in various cataloging roles with the library since.
A favorite memory, she noted, was the ceremony Swem held in the '80s to retire the public card catalog.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” she said.
Those changes include the students, James added.
“This generation questions more,” she said. Still, she enjoys working with the students. “I’ve learned a lot from them.”
James, a mother and grandmother, said at her 35th anniversary that part of what has kept her at William & Mary has been the ability to have a flexible schedule and her coworkers.
Recently she noted with a smile, “I keep thinking, everybody that came with me is gone and I’m still [at William & Mary] – what’s wrong with this picture?”
On that retirement horizon are also plans to travel.
“Yeah, I love to cruise.”
First stop? She hopes Hawaii.
James said she also plans to spend some time with the “Gennies” -- as in genealogists. A former colleague first got James interested in genealogy some 30 years ago, she said, with a workshop at the office. Now, James does volunteer research for her church. She’s currently helping to catalog the church’s entire cemetery, a project she wants to complete in the next couple of years.
James also hopes to continue her other community volunteer work and support of her beloved sports teams. She is a regular at local high school football and basketball games and volunteers with her grandchildren’s daycare center and works local elections.
First things firsts, though. James noted there are some new monographs that need cataloging.
When Mike Marrs first arrived at William & Mary, he asked one of his new colleagues how long he’d been working at the university. The man told him 12 years.
“I said, ‘My God, how can anyone stay at one job for 12 years?’” Mars recalled.
That conversation took place 40 years ago.
Marrs, W&M’s chief electrician, sports career statistics that would put him in the electrician’s hall of fame – if there were such a thing. During his four decades at William & Mary, Marrs has seen the construction of 34 buildings and the renovation of 34 others.
Bob Avalle, W&M’s director of operations and maintenance, described Marrs as “a valued member of the facilities management staff, having the institutional knowledge of where the electrical skeletons are literally buried.”
In 2011, Marrs performed two unheralded, though invaluable, tasks for the university during Hurricane Irene. He persuaded Dominion Power to abandon its plan for restoring power to the campus and to use his plan instead. Power was restored far more quickly than anticipated.
In addition, for almost two weeks while the restoration project was underway, Marrs personally oversaw the continuous refueling of campus generators. That took a special commitment not likely found in every employee.
“I like what I do,” Marrs said, “but it’s the William & Mary family (that has kept him here).”
Like all families, Marrs draws his share of good-natured teasing. Colleagues point to the apparently vast collection of Hawaiian shirts Marrs wears during spring and summer months. Ask him how many he has and his reply is a well-rehearsed, “How many do you need?”
“There’s talk of our new uniforms having a Hawaiian option,” he added.
Among what are probably several nicknames, Marrs is known as “Patient Zero.”
“He always goes deer hunting in November,” Avalle said. “He gets sick, comes to work sick, and gives everyone else his cold.”
Getting power restored to campus during Hurricane Irene was only the second-most challenging project of Marrs’ career, he said. Converting the former Hospitality House hotel into the dormitory now known as One Tribe Place topped that because new and different building codes had to be met.
“I’ve seen a lot of work here in 40 years – even done some,” Marrs said, “But [One Tribe Place] will be my most memorable.”
Jim Ducibella, Phil Jones, Suzanne Seurattan and Erin Zagursky contributed to this story.