“I came to DePauw with the idea that I should do it all here,” Terry Noble says of when she was hired. “Here was this door open to me to be part of a university community. My motto has been: Do it!”
Noble, who is retiring after nearly 33 years as a staff member, including a lengthy time when she doubled as a DePauw student, has pretty much done it all.
“I’ve been aware all of these 32 and a half years of the incredible privilege of coming to work in a place that is pleasant with a job that is challenging and interesting,” she says. “I’m not standing in factory line doing the same thing over and over for eight hours every day.”
That was her first job after graduating from high school.
Raised in a blue-collar family, “and certainly lower economically, it was necessary to work.” She was taught that, when she turned 16, the required age to get working papers in Pennsylvania, she needed to earn money to go to the movies or pay for extras at school. She left home when she graduated high school, and a week later was working in a factory.
Noble has not been unemployed since then, “which is a blessing,” she says, “but I’ve also never had more than 10 or 12 days off in a row in all those years.”
She was hired at DePauw in 1986 to be the circulation and reserve manager at Roy O. West Library and in 1989 was assigned to manage Prevo Science Library when computers were a new thing on campus. “I ended up doing a lot of computing and pretty quickly transitioned from the library side of library and information services to the information services side.” She also worked 12 years part-time for physics and astronomy as an astronomy lab instructor and McKim telescope operator.
In 2005 she was asked to work in the music library as music library manager, “which I was so excited about,” she says. The music library was still keeping the reserve list, items held for courses, in handwritten books. “So they really did need somebody who had some computing expertise to digitize and get things online and use computing in a functional way.”
I’ve been aware all of these 32 and a half years of the incredible privilege of coming to work in a place that is pleasant with a job that is challenging and interesting.
One of the things that attracted Noble to DePauw was the benefit of taking classes. “I had not been able to go to college. No one in my family had ever been to college.”
She took her first class in spring 1987 and graduated with the Class of 2003 – 33 semesters later. She holds the record as the longest continuously enrolled student in the history of the university.
“As staff, you’re only permitted one course a semester, and I didn’t have the money to take outside courses and be able to complete requirements any faster. And I was afraid to ever miss a semester because I thought if I lost the momentum, I wouldn’t do it.”
She loved the the experience. “I really strongly believe that everyone – all staff– should take advantage of the opportunity even to just sit in on a class. The only reason that we’re here is for students. And to be able to understand what the student experience really is at DePauw is absolutely vital.
“Graduation is definitely one of the absolutely biggest moments of my life,” she says.
Noble was a geoscience and anthropology double major who graduated with high honors – summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Despite the accolades, Nobles says, “it was a really hard day because my dad had died a week before and I wasn’t sure if I should walk or not.” She and her father had attended the Phi Beta Kappa dinner and the awards convocation together the month prior.
“That had been such a good night. Because it was the first time I thought my dad really understood how much it meant to me to get a college degree. And I was recognized individually by Neal (Abraham, former vice president for academic affairs), and I got a little emotional. My dad put his arm around me and my dad was not somebody who ever did that kind of thing and certainly not in public.”
Noble says her dad would have wanted her to walk, and she is thankful she did. She received a standing ovation from the faculty when she walked across the stage to received her degree.
“It’s been an amazing 30-some years,” she says. “I’ve done it all at DePauw.”