A Heart for Service: Debbie Larkin

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Barton is known for its welcoming community, and no one makes our students feel more at home than Debbie Larkin, the administrative assistant in the Office of Student Engagement and Success. With a joyful heart and a helping hand, she makes sure everyone she meets feels the warmth and welcome of the Barton family when they arrive on campus.

Larkin’s office is located in Hamlin Student Center, where she assists with residence life, religious life, and student activities programming. Each workday is different. Some days, it is all about creating spreadsheets for various projects or reports. Other days, she may be putting together packets for various events. She handles incoming calls from students and parents when others are in meetings and submits maintenance orders when needed. And, her summers are always busy helping with Orientation for new students. Larkin loves the interaction she has with students, especially when they collaborate on projects or decorate the nine Christmas trees in the student center and an additional tree in Howard Chapel during the holidays. These moments give her ample opportunity to talk to students about their school work, career goals, family traditions during the holidays, and life in general.

One of the most challenging, yet rewarding jobs that Larkin undertakes is Day of Service each fall. The Barton College Day of Service in October is an opportunity for Barton students, faculty, staff, and area alumni to give back to the Wilson community, volunteering their time for a multitude of day projects for local organizations across Wilson. Larkin has worked closely with the college chaplain on this highly anticipated event each year, since its inception. She begins work on the Day of Service project in August, and one of her biggest responsibilities is lining up the many projects across the city, where more than 800 Barton participants will volunteer. Larkin is quick to note that though there are many pieces to the planning of the Day of Service, which include preparing team packets, ordering transportation, lining up organizations, and recruiting participants, it all manages to fall smoothly into place when the day finally comes. It’s truly a team effort. “I’m really proud that the College hosts such an amazing service opportunity; it’s a great way for Barton to give back to our hometown community,” Larkin adds. “Not all schools offer a Day of Service, and it’s definitely become a part of the Barton Experience for our students. They learn how important it is to be involved in the life of their communities. It’s always a special day for our campus.”

When asked what kept Larkin at Barton, she answers with a smile, “It’s the students.” Larkin has a genuine interest in the students’ lives and wants to help them succeed academically and personally. “Seeing how much they grow from year to year, and watching them embrace new opportunities is incredibly fulfilling,” Larkin emphasizes. “I get teary eyed when it comes time for them to graduate because they really do become a part of our lives, as they allow us to become a part of theirs. Interacting with our students daily is one of the joys of working at Barton.”

Larkin shares that one of her most gratifying moments was when she received a letter from a student that she would have least expected to write her. The student was a religion major, and was always willing to help Larkin decorate the tree in Howard Chapel for the annual Lessons and Carols program each year. She remembers that they enjoyed sharing stories as they worked, and it provided a chance to get to know one another. Casual conversations continued once in awhile when their paths crossed, but it was much like her conversations with other students. Following his graduation from Barton, this young man sent a thoughtful letter about how much their talks had meant to him throughout the years and how much he looked forward to decorating the Christmas tree each year because of her taking an interest in his life. Larkin notes, “You do your job each day, but you never really know how much a casual conversation or a little extra attention can mean to a student. His letter reminds me of the importance of just being there for students, to listen and engage them whenever possible.”

When Larkin isn’t working, she enjoys cooking and relaxing with family and friends. She also loves the beach and doesn’t miss an opportunity to pick up a good book and spend a few hours reading.

Originally from Nash County, she has been married for 31 years. She and her husband, Simon, have four children: Sean, Shannon, Samantha, and Shea, as well as three grandchildren, Ellie, Simon, and Waylan. Shannon and her husband, Michael, and Samantha are all Barton graduates. Chester, an orange tabby cat, Eli, a Pomeranian Chihuahua mix, and Luna, a gray cat whom she found roaming the campus one day, round out her family.

Everyday, Larkin welcomes students, faculty, staff, and visitors into her office, and everyday, she sets the example for serving others.

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