Ms. Deborah retires after 45 years

From her perch in campus dining halls, Deborah Paige has touched the lives of students with kindness and love. Today is her last day on the job.

Deborah Paige in front of Chase Hall.
Deborah Paige (Photo by Kelly Jones, Carolina Dining Services)

Don’t you hope people use words like “smile,” “kind” and “love” to describe you?

That’s what happened when Carolina Dining Services used its Instagram account to announce the retirement of cashier Deborah Paige after 45 years of brightening the days of thousands of students as they entered campus dining halls.

The dozens of comments flooding in to certify the outsized influence of “Ms. Deborah” included:

  • Miss Deborah saying “Hey Honey” kept me from dropping out of school.
  • Miss Deborah! You always made my day every time I saw you at Chase. Thank you for taking the time to even learn my name. You made me feel so loved!
  • Deborah! God bless you in this new chapter of life! I know wherever you go, you’ll make those around you feel heard and loved. Slowly changing the world!
  • Thank you Ms. Deborah! Every morning you proved how showing even just a little bit of kindness can make a big positive impact on people’s day. Mine included! You probably cannot imagine just how many tens of thousands of souls you have brightened over these years simply by sharing with us the love in your heart. ❤️
  • Ms. Deborah always brightened my day walking into Rams, especially on hard days. She is an actual angel on this earth! Congratulations to her, and I am so thankful to have met her! ❤️❤️❤️

Reared by a grandmother in a big-porched, green stucco house surrounded by fruit trees on North Graham Street not far from the University, Paige began work in March 1976 in the Pine Room located in Lenoir Hall’s basement. “That was my first job, and I was scared but what else can I say — it was so different! I don’t regret a day, and if I had to do it over again I would,” Paige said.

Since then, Paige has greeted students every day with a genuine interest in their lives. “My grandmother always instilled in us to treat people the way you want to be treated and that has always been my thing.

“I worked in Lenoir first, then the ‘old’ Chase over in the SASB plaza, then back to Lenoir, then to the Beach Café and my final stop is here at Chase,” Paige said. “I started working back at Chase in 2014 and have been here ever since. My favorite part about working all over campus has been being able to meet the students. I enjoy working with my co-workers, but I look forward to my students — my babies as I call them.”

Her “babies” think so much of “Ms. Deborah” that, when her car broke down in 2015, they raised $5,000 and surprised her with the money to cover repair costs.

Students have called her an angel, and from her perch Paige has touched the lives of thousands students over the years. She’s also witnessed many changes. The latest change is a renovation of Chase Dining Hall, but the years have brought more important changes.

“This is probably about the third renovation I’ve seen. The students have changed too. The students are now accepting of who I am,” she said. “There is a lot more diversity in the staff and management over the years, which has been good to see.”

And, what will she miss the most? You can probably guess, but her answer leaves no doubt.

“The students. Leave it at the students.”