The voice behind the phone: serving the Cru with every call
Many people talk to her. Few know her name.
Debbie Bennett, the university’s administrative receptionist, directs countless calls each day. Responsible for the school’s main phone line, Bennett’s entire attention is on helping others.
“I get to meet a lot of great people,” she said. “It’s an interesting job.”
Bennett approaches her duties, which include answering phones, directing callers and assisting human resources and the admissions offices, as the chance to humbly serve others.
“A student will come in crying because something didn’t go right,” Bennett said. “They’re lost and don’t have a clue. There are also those first-time parents who are sending their children off to college. I can relate.”
She tries to meet the various needs that come through the Sanderford office doors, which is one of the lessons her mother taught her.
Bennett dwelled on the concept “always help people.” She said her mother, who is 78 and lives in Monahans, Texas, set the perfect example.
“She is very active and goes to church every time the door opens,” Bennett said of her mom. “She takes anywhere from two to three women to go with her who are normally not able to go. She’s the best mom.”
Bennett has modeled herself after her mother’s attitude, according to her daughter, Lori Tupin.
“My mother has always had the kindest heart, and she always put us before herself,” Tupin said. “Our needs were always met, and we are better people because of my mother’s generosity and loving heart.”
Bennett’s past jobs have all been about assisting people.
“(She) is the most selfless person that I know and she has a heart of gold,” Tupin said. “Any act of kindness that she gives is out of good faith, and she never expects anything in return.”
Though born in Rockdale, Calif., Bennett was raised in Andrews, Texas. Her father was in the Marines. She then moved to Odessa, Texas, where she went to Odessa College and took a nine-month secretarial business class.
In that same city she met and married David Bennett, her husband of 27 years, who is employed by the Texas Depart-ment of Transportation in Austin. David’s job has taken the family to various Texas cities, which have all brought a variety of adventures, including different jobs for Debbie.
“Every time we’ve moved, it has been a better position for him,” Debbie said of her husband.
Bennett has always been willing to make the adjustments, but it hasn’t been easy.
“I’ve been very lucky to get good jobs, but it has been hard,” she said. “It’s difficult going to a town where you don’t know anybody and nobody knows you. You have to get your foot in a door so they can get to know you and realize you’re an OK person.”
In Iraan, Texas she worked in the human resources of a local hospital for four years. While David worked in Brownwood, Debbie commuted to the outskirts of Goldthwaite, the city the couple resided in. She worked for two years in the accounting department at New Horizons Ranch, a residential treatment center that cares for children who are taken from their parents by the state.
“I got to know the kids. It was very hard,” Bennett said. “You heard their stories, and you couldn’t even imagine. It was really sad.”
She then took a job at the Goldthwaite bank where she worked for nine years.
“I loved working there because I got to help people every day, especially the elderly who couldn’t even balance their checkbook,” Bennett said. “You felt like you were needed, and they loved it.”
She enjoyed the relationships she cultivated in the town and with her customers. However, family circumstances moved the Bennetts to Salado last year after David’s mother was put in assisted living in Temple.
“It’s something we’ve got to do as children, and we want to do,” Bennett said. “It is our responsibility to love and take care of her.”
Bennett also takes care of her husband’s sister who is disabled and lives in Belton. Her schedule stays busy.
“We have two people that depend on us, so we don’t have a lot of extra time right now,” she said.
When life slows down for the couple, Bennett hopes to pursue a hobby and spend more time with her children, five grandchildren and husband.
“You would think being my age, I would be able to slow down, but I haven’t been able to yet,” she said.
For now, Bennett is happy serving at the university and adjusting to living in a new town.
Junior Jessica Gallagher, who helps run the switchboard occasionally, believes Bennett is indispensible to the university and will continue to be an important asset.
“She’s the first voice a person hears when contacting the school, and she makes a great impression,” Gallagher said. “She is one of those people that when you talk with her, you know she actually cares. She is so sweet.”