By Isabelle Flener
In a bittersweet farewell, the Lewis and Clark college community collectively mourns the passing of Deborah Lovell, a remarkable individual who dedicated nearly five decades of her life to the college. As the heart and soul of the Human Resources department, Debbie’s impact on the institution and the countless lives she touched is immeasurable.
Debbie’s journey with the college began in 1974, a mere four years after its establishment in 1970. Her 49 years of service spanned almost the entirety of the institution’s existence, making her a profound witness to its growth and evolution.
In her role as an HR coordinator, Debbie’s responsibilities transcended the ordinary.
According to Vice President of Administration and friend, Lori Artis, “In her role as HR coordinator, she worked every day welcoming new hires when they arrived on campus, but I think most significantly she worked with those who were retiring from their careers on this campus. You think about how long she has been here, and almost anyone who has been hired or retired at Lewis and Clark, she has played a significant role in their lives.”
Debbie’s legacy transcends mere professional boundaries; it is firmly rooted in her deep compassion.
“She had an amazing compassionate approach to the work that she did, and she gave people the gift of retirement which I think is incredible,” Artis shared. “As we were at the funeral home for the services, you really heard from so many retirees from Lewis and Clark who were there to pay their respects. She was not only an HR coordinator, but she really had true friendships on this campus, and that speaks to her friendliness, professionalism, and it has just been years of service.”
Her journey within the college unfolded through diverse chapters.
Gabe Springer, the Director of Team and Government Relations, noted, “Debbie started in another department, she worked in purchasing. She worked in that department from 1974 to 1992, so she spent a significant amount of time not just in Human Resources but in another part of the college helping in a different way.”
“I would describe the impact that Debbie had on the college and the college community as one of being full of compassion,” Springer continued. “She was always, no matter how hard the situation or what it meant, she put compassion into an argument or solution. That was her best attribute with working in human resources with people—just an uncanny ability to do that through compassion.”
Debbie’s empathetic approach extended to her colleagues’ personal challenges.
“We have team members unfortunately who deal with their own grief or their own medical issues in life. From time to time our team members need to step back and take a leave from the college to deal with those personal issues and Debbie approaches to be so caring in every single instance,” Artis explained. “I think if you talk to any team member who has had to deal with an issue like that, they would speak highly of how she handled it. She not only dealt with things with compassion but an extreme confidence. Someone you can trust and confide in.”
Even after her retirement, Debbie’s commitment remained steadfast.
“She was a full-time team member for many years, and she retired but came back quickly as part-time. Not only because her institutional knowledge lends itself to the HR department and the work we do for our team members every day, but because she genuinely enjoyed helping others,” Artis noted.
“It breaks my heart a little bit that she has helped so many people retire and did not get to experience that full retirement life,” Artis expressed. “But she lived life to the fullest, she traveled a lot, and she had two granddaughters that she spoke about with such joy and admiration. She spent a lot of time with her husband Dave, who actually retired from the college as well. He worked in the IT department. The relationships that the two of them had formed over the past 49 years really illustrate what a huge loss this is for the college community.”
Compassion was the perfect word to encapsulate her essence.
“One word to describe Debbie would be service, our former President always referred to Debbie’s middle name being service. The service to others, and just the compassion,” Artis recalled.
Debbie’s impact extended far beyond her immediate interactions.
“Given her 49 years here, she did not directly interact with the students,” Artis added. “But she had such a massive impact on so many students’ educational journeys because she helped hire and counsel all our faculty and staff who serve our students. She was especially important to our team members, but maybe not as seen by our students. She was overly critical of helping ensure our students had the best faculty and staff. Also, that our faculty and staff had support here on campus.”
As the Lewis and Clark college community mourns Debbie’s passing, her legacy of compassion, dedication, and service will continue to reverberate, shaping the institution’s future. Her story stands as a testament to the enduring influence one individual can have on an institution and its members; a poignant reminder that the bonds forged, and the care extended leave a lasting imprint on the tapestry of a community.
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