Carole Dingess Awarded Honorary Alumni Status
More than a decade ago, the university’s Department of Animal and Avian Sciences lost a mother hen.
She migrated to a new home at the Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA), which has been lucky to have her as member of its family ever since. Carole Dingess is officially the IAA’s Business Services Specialist. Unofficially, she’s the mother hen whose years of maternal service to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) have earned her a new title: Honorary Member of the AGNR Alumni Association.
Carole’s path to honorary alumni status stretches back to 1986, when the University of Maryland first hired her. Carole held a secretarial position with the university’s Poultry Science Department, which eventually merged into the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences. Carole says that during her nine years with the undergraduate program, she loved to work with those students and earned a reputation as a “mother hen” to them.
In 2005, Carole was asked if she wanted to fulfill a similar role for IAA students. The Institute’s director at the time, Thomas Hartsock, invited her to apply for an open position. Soon after being hired Carole established herself as an irreplaceable member of the IAA, which continues to cherish her today.
“Carole is the heart of the IAA,” according to IAA Director Glori Hyman. “She is the first person to greet students and visitors, and she is the go-to person for IAA faculty.” Indeed, students and faculty reach out to Carole for, well, just about everything. Faculty regularly turn to Carole for help when they’re feeling bewildered by anything from university red tape to the office photocopier’s complexity. “That support she’s been providing over the years has been outstanding,” says longtime IAA Lecturer Kevin Mathias. “She’s so pleasant to work with… She makes this feel like a family.”
That family extends to any student with questions about the IAA program. Carole provides prospective students with details on how to apply, and current IAA students turn to her anytime they need somewhere to go for help. “I feel like I make a difference with them,” Carole says. Robert “Bob” Borkowski couldn’t agree more. He pursued his IAA certificate after a lengthy career in an unrelated field. “The transition from law enforcement was tough,” he says. “Carole made my transition to school life easy and comfortable; she has been my second mom! If I had a concern, she found the answer for me.”
Finding answers and serving as an administrative guru has made Carole a highly valued figure among three decades of AGNR students and faculty. So it came as little surprise to many of them to learn that Carole would be awarded honorary alumna status at the AGNR Alumni Association’s annual banquet. The honored recipient, however, was shocked. “I just couldn’t believe it,” Carole says. “There are so many others on campus who do this type of work who are also deserving… I’m very humbled.”
At the banquet in April, Carole was presented with a plaque commemorating her newfound status, and she received generous applause from the more than 150 attendees who take pride in Carole and her work. Also proud of Carole: her family in Florida. Soon after the banquet Carole set out on a trip to visit them, and she made sure to bring along her plaque and show it off.
Now that plaque is prominently displayed in Carole’s home in Prince George’s County. After 30 years she continues to drive from there to her IAA office in Jull Hall each weekday morning. Carole plans to stay in her current position (of mother hen) until retirement. However, the honorary alumna says she has no retirement date on the horizon.
Carole’s flock of IAA faculty and students couldn’t be happier.
^Carole poses with family at the AGNR Alumni Banquet.