WILSON, N.C. — August 4, 2020 — Eddie Hopkins’ affable smile, his good-natured personality, and that happy-to-see-you wave of his arm across campus have endeared him to countless Barton College employees and students for the past 61 years.
Hopkins was listed as an essential employee, as Barton College made decisions in March regarding who would work from home and who would continue their work on campus during the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic the past spring semester. Essential Employee…that phrase doesn’t even begin to describe what Eddie Hopkins has meant to this College for the past six decades. He retired on Friday, July 31, 2020.
“Barton is grateful for the commitment and loyalty of Eddie Hopkins during his 61 years of service to the College,” shares Dr. Douglas N. Searcy, president of Barton College. “His hard work and dedication have helped to create the beautiful and inviting landscape by which the campus is known. He has devoted a lifetime of service to this institution, and he will be greatly missed by our community.”
Hopkins’ relationship with Barton, then Atlantic Christian College, began on Friday, September 18, 1959, at 5:30 a.m. His first job on campus was working in the College’s cafeteria under the supervision of Irene Gray. For the next five years during the fall and spring semesters, he worked in the cafeteria, and, during the summers, he worked for Lee Moore who oversaw the Physical Plant of the College. By year six, Hopkins had moved permanently to the Physical Plant team. Initially, he worked in housekeeping, but after three or four years, he transferred to the maintenance division. However, it was some years later when Hopkins joined the landscaping/grounds team that he knew he had found his passion.
With a strong work ethic and his love of outdoors, Hopkins embraced his new responsibilities caring for the campus grounds. He began to learn about the different plantings across campus. He became a master at the seasonal trimming of shrubbery and flowering trees. And, he learned a great deal about grasses over the years. He can tell you all about the different kinds of grass seed and fertilizer, and what has worked and what hasn’t over these many years. Eddie gives Director of Athletics Todd Wilkinson credit for teaching him in recent years about creating a carpet of green grass each spring. Wilkinson was known for the award-winning baseball field at Barton’s Nixon Field during his years as head baseball coach.
Hopkins also is quick to note his appreciation for the leadership of Anne Pierce, Landscaping/Grounds Supervisor in Facilities Services. “She has been great to work with since the first day of her arrival,” he notes. “She cares so much about Barton and about her team. She never asks us to do anything that she isn’t also willing to do herself. I always tell her that if I do the work to suit myself, I believe it will suit you.”
Pierce will agree that Hopkins has given his very best effort to Barton every day. “It has been my pleasure to work with Eddie for the past five and a half years,” Pierce notes. “He loves the Barton campus and the people who work here. He has worked here so long and in so many different capacities that his knowledge of the buildings and grounds will certainly be missed. His cheerful and “everything’s lovely” attitude has helped to make Barton College a special place to work.”
As the years passed and Hopkins became a senior member of the landscaping/grounds team, he also became a mentor for younger team members. It was a role he took seriously. For many years, Hopkins was the only member of the landscaping/grounds team ever seen on the large riding lawn mower. It was a continual responsibility mowing the grass across the expanding campus during the growing seasons, as well as collecting the leaves each fall. He manipulated the industrial-sized machinery around the towering trees with a graceful ease. He has since taught others how to handle this equipment and, as he prepared for his departure, he said he knew the campus was in strong, capable hands. Taking great pride in the appearance of the campus, Hopkins has always understood the importance of curbside appeal. He notes, “When people arrive on campus, especially that first time, we want them to have a good first impression. It makes a difference.”
“I have enjoyed it all,” he continues. “It has never seemed like a job. I’ve always enjoyed what I do and being a part of this team. It seems like it’s been something I have been supposed to do, and I don’t mind any of it. I’ve always felt called to this place, and I’ve made so many friends over these many years.”
Hopkins has fond memories of many others who have been a part of this campus community over the years — those who left their own imprints on this campus. “I have met wonderful people like Sarah Bain Ward, Judy Parrish, Zeb Whitehurst, Lee Moore, J.P. Tyndall, Robert Capps, President Wenger, President Hemby, and Milton Adams, just to name a few,” he says. “There have been so many special people who have worked here.” Among his own team members, Hopkins explains there are many he has come to know and appreciate across the decades. And, while he can’t begin to list everyone, he says some of those landscaping and grounds team members that come to mind so quickly are Pete Farmer, Oloman Barnes, Ricky Evans, Dot Lovitte (retired), the late Cornell “C.J.” Jones, and co-worker Artis Johnson.
Hopkins says he will miss the vibrancy of the students on campus, noting, “I love being on the campus, seeing the students every day and the energy they bring. When they go home for breaks, after the first couple of days, I start missing them all over again.”
He says that his doctor has always encouraged him to stay busy, and he believes working at Barton has helped to keep him healthy and busy. He rarely took a sick day and was told some years ago that he had accrued close to 1,000 days of sick leave. He’ll need to find some ways to stay busy, now that he has retired, but he is looking forward to those new opportunities. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Beatrice, for 60 years. They have two sons, Eddie Jerome Hopkins of Wilson and Gregory Hopkins of Atlanta, Ga. He looks forward to more quality time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. And, he hopes to devote additional time to his ongoing church work at Patterson’s Chapel. Life is good, and he celebrates his blessings.
No doubt, Eddie Hopkins will still stay connected to Barton. It’s been such an important part of his life for so long. He says he’ll be back for that first Barton football game!
Hopkins is amazed at how many alumni and retired employees remember him. “So many have come and graduated since I first came to this campus, but I’ll run into someone from Barton almost any time I’m out and about, or even traveling out of town,” he shares. “They still remember me, and it always makes me smile.”
He is particularly well known for a couple of his favorite sayings. For years, when folks asked him how he was doing, his favorite response was “I’ve got the tiger by the tail!” Hopkins laughs, adding, “Only once a great while, did I feel like that tiger had me by the tail.” He lets us in on a little secret that others may already know. That “tiger by the tail” phrase actually comes from a song he heard many years ago. Another of Hopkins’ favorite sayings, as Pierce mentioned earlier, is “Everything’s lovely.” He’s an optimist at heart.
Hopkins has seen many changes on campus during the past six decades. When asked about some of the biggest changes, he recalls the physical transformation of the campus and its expansion. He notes that Caldwell Hall and the Old Gymnasium were razed. And, he witnessed a multitude of new buildings constructed and extensive campus acreage that was added during the past sixty years. Hopkins also recalls that several roads were also closed to make the campus more pedestrian. Gold Street, Lee Street, Rountree Street, and Woodard Street used to run through the campus.
Hopkins has witnessed much on this campus that is now a part of the College’s chronicled history, including but not limited to numerous academic recognitions and athletic victories, the Centennial Celebration, alumni reunions, and commencement exercises. And, he has known five of the College’s twelve presidents.
When Hopkins retired this past Friday, he left a legacy of serving the Barton campus for 61 years. To our knowledge, he is the only employee of the College to have served the campus for that extraordinary length of time. And, this gentleman has left an imprint on our hearts, as his faithful commitment and dedicated service to Barton College will long be remembered.