When Debbie King entered the Secretarial Arts program at Holland College in 1973, she envisioned finding employment in an office with one or two people when she finished her training. She could never have imagined that in 2023 she would still be here – celebrating her 50th work anniversary!
“The college was only three years old when I enrolled in the Secretarial Arts program in January of 1972,” she recalled in a recent interview. “There were only a few programs, and mine had a continuous intake so you could enter the program at any time and leave when you were ready.”
The Secretarial Arts program was one of the original four programs offered by Holland College when it first opened its doors in 1969. The program description read:
“…designed to develop the personal qualities and high standard of secretarial skills required of a secretary in a modern office.”*
Those skills included typing and shorthand, but word processors and PCs wouldn’t be common in offices for a couple more decades, and the concept of Internet would have been mind-boggling for most people at that time.
Students in the early years of the college were expected to self-direct their learning.
“It was hard, especially right out of high school, but the instructors were really good,” Debbie recalls, “they provided great assistance, but also provided opportunities for students to experience college life and have fun.”
By the summer of 1973, Debbie had completed her program. There were no graduations back then, as education was considered to be a life-long endeavour, and graduation may have seemed like the end of the journey. Instead, students’ achievements were “recognized”.
She started working for the college in the Electronics department that summer, and then, in the fall of ’73, she was offered a three-month contract in the Business department filling in for the secretary.
In 1973, the college offered only 14 programs, compared to the more than 65 programs applicants can select from now.
“Everything has changed at the college since then,” Debbie said. “In the early days, you got to know all the students personally.”
With almost 400 students registered in business programs on the Prince of Wales Campus last year, it’s not as easy to keep track, but Debbie still feels invested in the students she meets.
“The change in demographics and the cultural diversity we have now is good for the college, and for all of us,” she said.
She says the sense of purpose – of being part of an institution that is committed to providing students with relevant, high-quality training – has kept her motivated for all these years.
“Working in the midst of the college’s purpose, you see the students’ lives change from the time they arrive to when they graduate. My job is never the same, with new students and fresh new faces every year,” she said. “The same goes for staff – I have worked with, and made friends with, wonderful people during my time here.”
“I expect that when I’m ready to retire, I’ll know. But right now, I’m still enjoying what I do, and feel a sense of pride in the college and in my role here. I tell people that I can’t leave until the person I was hired to replace in 1973 returns!”
*MacKinnon, Wayne. A Record of Achievement Holland College: The First 25 Years. Holland College Foundation. 2008. P. 34.
In this picture: Debbie accepts her 50th anniversary gift from Holland College President Dr. Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald.
For more information, please contact:
Sara Underwood, Media and Communications Officer
Date: June 26, 2023