Dallas – Deborah “Debbie” Hutchison is leaving the building, and she’s going to try not to cry.
For more than 22 years, she has devoted herself and her time to students, colleagues, supervisors and visitors at the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).
“I think I’ve touched a few lives,” Hutchison said.
What motivates her is a desire to answer questions. She’s like a Trivial Pursuit expert, except all of the queries are about DCCCD, and she knows most, if not all, of the answers.
“Our students deserve to talk to someone who wants to help them,” said Hutchison said. “These years at DCCCD have enriched my life in so many ways that I could not have imagined. The most important blessings have come from my district office family. I’ve learned a lot here.”
Dr. Joe May, the district’s chancellor, calls her “the voice of DCCCD. During an impromptu appearance before DCCCD’s trustees this month, Hutchison thanked board members for both the chance work for the district and the opportunity to spread her wings.
“I’ve been blessed to work with wonderful people and do meaningful work,” she told them.
When she came to interview for a job at the district, she was told that she was overqualified. Hutchison, undaunted, set out to prove that she could fit in with a constantly-evolving department.
“It was the love. I immediately felt love,” Hutchison said. “I did a lot of training just to keep my skills up. I’m a resource. I believe that if you don’t know the answer, you find out. You get it and you share it.”
She will be missed. It is Hutchison’s gentle and patient telephone voice that has guided students through the morass of college classes, majors, buildings, campuses and an assortment of other questions.
“I feel so much at home in education. These are all teaching moments,” she said.
Building strong relationships
At 71, Hutchison stayed in the workforce longer than planned, but mostly because it gave her a chance to learn and help others, and chance to master tasks that required software classes and other types of training.
“I cherish my colleagues,” she said. “Relationships are what I take from here. It’s the people.”
The feeling is mutual.
The district’s executive vice chancellor, Dr. Justin Lonon, called Hutchison “an outstanding ambassador. The epitome of customer service.
“She cares deeply about our students and their needs,” Lonon said. “She also is a great writer who has crafted materials and stories throughout the district. She is irreplaceable.”
Hutchison walked into DCCCD in 1995 looking for a job as a writer. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, the English major wanted a job that would keep her engaged. She certainly found that and more. During her tenure, she penned DCCCD’s employee newsletter, wrote for the web and joined numerous leadership teams.
She’s worn a lot of different hats: facilitator, information specialist, department assistant, marketing information specialist and, finally, senior marketing information specialist. And as a member of the district’s Community Emergency Response Team, she actually donned a hard hat as she guided her colleagues and supervisors during emergency drills.
A Fort Worth native, Hutchison eagerly and proudly claims Dallas as her home. She is a longtime member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Dallas Arboretum. She is quick to add that she also has a membership with Fort Worth’s renowned Kimball Art Museum.
“I will never give up my Fort Worth roots,” she said.
Hutchison is an award-winning speaker and writer. As head of the DCCCD Talks chapter of Toastmasters International, she has won a number of honors for her speeches. She also has hosted and helped organize the district’s annual celebrations honoring other cultures, including the annual African American Read-in.
Kathy Cook, the district’s chief marketing officer, called Hutchison “our number one customer service representative.”
“When phones all over the district are overloaded and going to voicemail, Debbie is the one people know they can call and talk to, a kind and patient person,” Cook said.
Hutchison, according to Cook, has the institutional knowledge that everyone in the district relies on.
“Like our students, we count on Debbie to know everything about everything. And, not surprisingly, she does,” Cook said. “But Debbie is so much more to all of us in district marketing. She is a true friend who cares about each and every one us, and our families and even our pets. She is family, and family is forever.”
Hutchison will embark on new adventures as she retires. In addition to gardening, she plans to donate a good deal of time to her four grandchildren, pen a journal and work on her family’s genealogy – a pet project that she says borders on obsession.
But she promises not to stray too far.
“This is not the end. It’s the beginning. I love everybody I work with. It’s been a great ride, but it’s not over,” said Hutchison, who plans to return every other Thursday to DCCCD’s downtown Dallas office building for Toastmasters meetings.
“I’ll be back for my craziness. I won’t have time to cry,” she said.
SOURCE Dallas County Community College District