“Best place I’ve ever worked”: Vicky Tripp, seen here in one of her favorite places on campus, will retire from NCSSM after fifteen years.
Vicky Tripp’s commitment to helping others is evident in just about any conversation she has. As she nears retirement on July 1, after 15 years at NCSSM as program assistant for the math department, she’s been thinking about that a lot. “ I just love doing things for people,” she says.
Tripp recalls the first day she worked at NCSSM, June 4, 2001, and even the members of her hiring committee, including current supervisor and Dean of Mathematics Donita Robinson. Tripp and Robinson have developed a strong friendship throughout the years working together. “That’s the worst thing about leaving, is leaving her, and not seeing her every day. Not only has she guided me through my career here, we’ve become great friends,” Tripp says.
Tripp will retire after 20 years with the state, previously working at Glenn Elementary School, and spending almost 20 years at Northern Telecom (Nortel) before coming to NCSSM. Her history with the school goes back even farther than that, though. Her two children were both born on the site when the school was still Watts Hospital, and she worked as a candy striper in the hospital when she was 14.
Although she’s looking forward to retirement, it’s hard to leave the school, she says, and she isn’t quite sure how to feel these last couple of weeks here. “I’ve had a lot of jobs, “ she says, but “NCSSM is the best place I’ve ever worked.”
Tripp, ever the people person, credits much of this to the real sense of community at NCSSM. Many of her fondest memories are of the teachers in her department, especially around Christmas time. Last year, Tripp made everyone socks with snowmen, “just a token,” she says, and the teachers have often done nice things for her around Christmas. “I love my teachers,” she says. “I love them all dearly, I really do. I’ve loved working with them, and I’m going to hate leaving them.”
Tripp will miss her coworkers around campus, too, many of whom have shown her true teamwork and collaboration, with colleagues showing up to help one another during particularly busy times. For Tripp, that time was around the Teaching Contemporary Mathematics Conference, hosted each year by the math department. Tripp has orchestrated the conference for the past fifteen years, and she’s loved talking to and meeting all the teachers that come from out of state and around the world for the conference. “All those people I speak with on the phone, that’s the biggest joy. People from all over the United States, even a teacher from Switzerland one year,” she recalls. Organizing the conference was hard work, “but it’s worth every bit of it,” she says. “The conference is my baby! I’ll be sad to leave it.”
She has another group of “her babies” in mind now though as she looks forward to spending more time with her family, including her two children and five grandchildren. She plans to spend a whole week in July with some of her grandchildren at the home she shares with her husband and two dogs near Kerr Lake. “That is the one thing I won’t miss,” she laughs: the 45-minute drive to work, especially in cold or stormy weather.
“I’m going to spend that whole first month doing nothing,” Tripp says, adjusting to life after retirement, “and figuring out what I want to do with this new chapter in my life.” She already has some ideas. She is looking forward to spending more time in her garden, and being able to dedicate more time to her church, remarking that the close-knit community at NCSSM reminds her of her church community. Tripp is excited to get more involved in things such as vacation Bible school, volunteering in soup kitchens, and visiting and spending time with people who have lost a relative or are in the hospital or nursing home.
She and her husband also plan to do some travelling, maybe to Amish country, or to do some hiking near Cades Cove in Tennessee. Or, she says, pondering the freedom that will come along with her new schedule, “wherever the road may take us! If I want to get up and ride to the beach and get pizza at my favorite place [on Emerald Isle, just ask her], I can!”