A consistent and uncompromising standard of service
Charlotte Hines came to Carolina on a temporary basis.
More than 42 years later, she is still here. She remembers the exact day (July 28) and hour (2 p.m.) she started work, and the pay she earned ($1.57 an hour) beginning the day she walked into Bynum Hall to see Marvin Woodard, the University cashier, about a job.
At the time, Hines had just graduated from Mars Hill College with a four-year degree in secretarial administration, but she had no experience.
The idea was to get a temporary job so she could gain work experience, so when Woodard asked if she could fill in for a few days for a woman on maternity leave, she agreed.
But the days stretched into weeks, then months. When the woman came back from maternity leave, she was moved into a teller’s position. And this time, when Woodard summoned Hines to his office, he offered her the chance to stay on.
Her first official day was Sept. 1, 1966. Four decades later, nothing about the job is exactly the same as it was back then – not even Hines.
A FAMILY TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
Putting down roots in one place was hard for Hines to imagine when she was a little girl moving with her family from town to town across North Carolina.
Her father was a town manager, and it was the nature of his profession that the way to advance was to leapfrog from one town to the next in search of a better opportunity and bigger paycheck.
Hines and her mother, Evelyn, and big sister, Holly, got used to all the moving. Born in Raleigh during World War II, Hines also lived in Sanford and Jacksonville. From there the family moved to Rocky Mount, then to Greensboro after her father landed his dream job as city manager.
But cancer stole that dream and eventually took her father from them. He died three months after Hines headed to Mars Hill College, where Holly was already a student and where their mother had graduated years before.
The two sisters roomed together for a year before Holly transferred to Baptist Hospital School of Nursing in Winston-Salem. Months later, she developed the same form of virulent lymphoma that had killed her father. Within months, Holly was gone, too.
It was Hines’ mother who suggested that Hines would do well to concentrate on a field leading to a job that would be easy to get but hard to lose.
Hines had been interested in art as a child, but she thought the world already had enough starving artists. The decision to live in Chapel Hill was an easy one.
Hines’ mother was a registered nurse as a young woman, but after the death of her husband and daughter she could not bear the thought of going back to work in a hospital every day. At age 50, Evelyn earned an undergraduate degree in teaching at Carolina. After completing her librarian certification, she became the librarian at Glenwood Elementary in Chapel Hill, where she stayed 15 years.
At first the two women rented an apartment in Glen Lennox and liked the neighborhood so much they decided to buy a house there when one became available. Hines wanted a neat little lawn to mow. Her mother wanted space for a flower garden.
They moved into their house in 1969 and have lived there ever since. At the time, they figured one would get the house if the other got married, but that was not to be.
Over the years, Hines and her mother, who is now 93, have learned to lean on each other in a way that has made them both stronger. They have mastered the delicate art of staying out of each other’s way yet always being there when needed.
“We are best friends,” Hines said.
In retrospect, Hines said she might have been better off majoring in business administration, but she wasn’t particularly interested at the time in being in charge of anything.
She knows she is an aberration in today’s fast-paced world where staying in one place is seldom the way to get ahead. For Hines, though, after her father and sister died, getting ahead was less on her mind than being able to stand on her own two feet and survive.
And her job at the cashier’s office has proved to be everything she wanted and all that she has needed. In the early years, it was the place to go that helped her forget what she had lost.
“I was very depressed when I came here and I kind of needed something to keep me busy,” Hines said. “I chose the right job.”
‘BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY’
Steadiness. Responsibility. Dedication. Duty. These qualities have enabled Hines to do her job in the Office of Student Accounts and University Receivables so well for so long – and to earn a 2008 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award.
DeAhn Baucom, the office’s director, described Hines as a model of service to the University.
“She exhibits a consistent and uncompromising standard of service to our students. She is meticulous and careful. Charlotte talks to many students and their parents on a daily basis, always going the extra mile to assist them, never losing her temper,” Baucom said.
“She has literally given her life to the University, and has done so cheerfully and with grace.”
Beth Williams, the assistant director, said Hines serves unofficially as the office historian, who remembers fondly the days when staff members each received a tray of some 1,200 color-coded ledger cards to write out students’ bills by hand.
Back then, it took about a week to go through a tray. With today’s computerized billing, the same process can be completed with the click of a mouse.
The office has gone through five directors and countless changes in process and organization since Hines arrived.
In 1998, the cashier’s office merged with Loan Repayment Services, then located in Battle/Vance/Pettigrew. Nine years later, the two offices came together under one roof when the new Student and Academic Services Building opened.
What has remained constant is Hines’ calm, steady presence, Williams said.
“Many times, she will make the effort to follow up with telephone callers after office hours,” Williams said. “She is normally the last person to leave our office every day, making sure our work space is secure. We are often lost when she is not here.”
The first thing a caller notices about Hines is her lilting, almost rhapsodic voice – a voice that exudes a down-home, down-to-business warmth. Think of Aunt Bee’s soaring trill toned down a bit, then add a Southern accent that Hines describes as a cross between her mother’s mountain twang and her father’s coastal drawl.
These phone calls with parents are often the highlight of her day, Hines said.
“One of the things I enjoy is when parents call and they tell you their child is the first one in their family ever to go to college, and you can just hear the pride,” Hines said. “They are so thrilled and so pleased, and no matter what kind of day you are having you’ve got to be happy, too.”
Hines said there is also a quiet satisfaction in knowing a job thoroughly and doing it well. She admits she will always be a small cog in a big machine, but she understands that the small cogs help keep the machine functioning.
Hines said, “I do nothing stupendous, nothing momentous.”
But essential, nonetheless.
Originally published by University Gazette: Nov. 19, 2008