Tradition runs deep through UTM
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 19:09
Doris Edwards, affectionately known on campus as Ms. Doris, Ms. D or Mom, retired May 4, 2012 after giving her smile, positive attitude and dedication to her UTM family for 38 years.
“You know time really went by fast. I really enjoyed the job and didn’t originally intend to stay forever, but that’s what happened,” Edwards said, when asked about her 38 years at UTM.
Edwards began her journey at UTM when her dad, Sterling Owens Jr., suggested that she put in an application for employment. She was hired and joined her father on a journey that over the years became a family tradition.
“Mrs. Edwards and members of her family represent an incredible line of loyalty and longevity at UT Martin. Valued employees such as the Edwards family are rare by any standard. We are blessed to have Doris as well as so many of her family join with us and as we acknowledge, become such an important part of what we do,” Chancellor Tom Rakes said.
Her father, Sterling Owens Jr., was among the first members of Edwards’ family to put down roots in the UTM campus. He worked at UTM for 24 years until his death. The UTM campus has been blessed to have 32 members of Edwards’ family working in some capacity over the years. The different members of her family included her father, sister, brother, sister-in-law, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. Several members of her family are still working on campus today. Besides all the members of Edwards’ family who worked at UTM, she also had many family members over the years that either did or still attend classes here.
“It’s like a family tie here. My dad was an active worker here when he died. He didn’t get a chance to retire. He worked his shift on Saturday and died on Sunday. We got a good family work ethic,” Edwards said.
Edwards credits and thanks her mother, Doris Owens, for instilling a strong work ethic in her and her siblings at a young age.
When Edwards retired, she was the last UTM employee left working in the dining room. Sodexo took over the management of the dining facilities several years ago. At that time, Sodexo offered Edwards the chance to switch her employment from UTM to their company. Edwards chose to stay with UTM so that she wouldn’t lose her seniority and benefits.
Edwards was greeted with excitement and requests for hugs from nearly every student that saw her when she recently visited the campus for her interview with The Pacer. Every corner she turned revealed someone else whose face lit up with love the moment they saw her.
During Edwards’ 38 years of service she received many awards from different organizations, fraternities, and sororities. The Tennessee Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences presented her with a plaque in 2006. The plaque read, “Thanks for being there each morning for us and helping us get our day started.”
When Edwards first started working at UTM, she was stationed in the dish room. She also worked on the grill, in the food court, and then eventually in the cafeteria, or dining room.
She enjoyed working the morning shift there, because it enabled her to be one of the first people that students and faculty saw before heading off to classes and to their respective jobs.
“Some of the students, especially the freshmen, were just leaving home for the first time and the cafeteria was the first place that they would come to after leaving their dorms. We played a very important part in their day, by interacting with them and trying to make it a little bit better, with our smiles and laughter,” Edwards said.
“She was like family to us. We absolutely loved her and will really miss her. She cared a lot about our students and the students loved her like she was their mom. Every morning she had this big smile on her face and she gave us hugs,” Anoush Lazarian, Sodexo Catering Manager and former co-worker, said concerning Edwards.
Edwards made such a difference in so many lives with her kindness and her compassion.
“Over the last 15 years, Mrs. Doris watched me grow and inspired me to reach my goal of becoming the General Manager of UTM Dining Services. Her dedication and kind heart have always been an inspiration to me and my management style. I don’t know if she really realizes the impact she has made on so many people,” said Benjamin Long, Sodexo General Manager, who claims Edwards as his honorary mom.
It has often been said that there is no better legacy to leave behind than cherished memories in the hearts and minds of those that love you.