Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Former PPD employee, Vicki Martin

*The latest installment in the Ole Miss Retirees features is former Physical Plant employee, Vicki Martin. The organization’s mission is to enable all of the university’s faculty and staff retirees to maintain and promote a close association with the university. It is the goal of the Ole Miss Faculty/Staff Retirees Association to maintain communication by providing opportunities to attend and participate in events and presentations.

I have known Vicki Martin for a long time. Vicki knew everyone on campus and they knew they could always call on her for help and answers to their questions. She was very involved with all the events on campus and helped Ole Miss put its best foot forward every time. One of the major events was commencement. I wondered how they managed that after Vicki’s retirement. So glad she has shared her Ole Miss story.

Photo courtesy of Vicki Martin

Brown:  Where did you grow up?  Where did you go to school? Please talk about your childhood.  

Martin:   I was born and raised in Oxford.  I was the baby of six girls:  Virginia, Nancy, Jan, Connie, Betty Joe (who died in infancy), and me.  Connie passed away October 25, 2013, from complications from post-polio syndrome.   We also lost our sister Jan Gatlin in 2002 to cancer.  Jan also worked at Ole Miss.  Virginia’s husband Sonny Maples, son Joe Maples, and daughter Jeannine Walters are all retired from Ole Miss. Nancy is also an Ole Miss retiree.

We lived north of Oxford on Chickasaw Road. At that time it was unpaved and it was in the country.  My parents, Joe and Burris Fuller, were loving and hardworking and I can truly say they instilled in us the values we still have today.  Even though we did not have a lot of money growing up, I realize now just how very rich we really were.  Our lives changed dramatically in 1952 when my sister Connie contracted polio.  After months of hospitalization, she returned home wheelchair bound for the rest of her life.  Anyone who knew her knows that polio did not stop her from leading a productive life.  She was an awesome person.  

I started school at the elementary school where the Federal Building is now and went there through the 6th grade. Then at the beginning of the 7th grade, I started University High. I really thought we would graduate from there, but a brand new high school was built and my class moved into it the beginning of our 10th grade.  I graduated from Oxford High School in 1966.

Brown:   Tell us how/when your Ole Miss “story” began. Who hired you?

Martin:  My Ole Miss story began in July of 1974.  I applied for a radio dispatcher position at the Physical Plant Department (PPD).  Danny Benjamin hired me.  At that time I was divorced.  I worked for six months as a dispatcher and met my future husband on the job.  Because we could not work together, I transferred to the PPD front office as an Accounting Clerk.  I worked for PPD Directors John White, Paul Hale, and Terron Jones. I also had the privilege to work with so many wonderful skilled men and women in the PPD shops.  It was like one big family.

Brown:  How long did you work at Ole Miss?  What position(s) did you hold? What were your job responsibilities?  

Martin:  I worked my entire 30-year career at the Physical Plant Department (PPD) holding different positions including Accounting clerk, Senior Accounting Clerk, Computer Operator, and Production Control Supervisor.

One of my job duties was overseeing the Production Control area that was responsible for taking and submitting all maintenance orders into SAP (database) and generating reports. Also one of the responsibilities I had during the last years was what you would call a liaison between Special Events and PPD shops.  I would take the set up information, enter the order and get all the details to the setup guys that actually did the work.  Some examples of this would be commencement, concerts, luncheons, and many other events.  

Brown:  It seems that everyone has “that” day at work that is memorable.  What day was that for you and why?

Martin:  It would be a hard choice.  I guess I would have to choose the very first outdoor commencement.  We had months of meeting and preparation.  The renting of 15,000 chairs, staging, sound systems, organs, podiums and hundreds of other details were almost overwhelming for all involved.   It was a massive production.  Strategic planning for months on end went into the successful first outdoor commencement.

Brown:  What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Martin:   I would tell my 20-year-old self to go to college.  A college education would have provided me with better career opportunities, the ability to make more money, and provided better for my family.

Brown:  If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would that be?

L-r: Nancy Fuller (sister),Heather McCullough (granddaughter),
Virginia Maples (sister), and Vicki Martin. Photo courtesy of Vicki Martin.

Martin:   The rule I would want everyone to follow would be to treat everyone with respect, love, and kindness.

Brown:  Do you have hobbies?

Martin:   My hobbies are reading, working in my flowers, going to auctions, flea markets and yard sales.

Brown:  What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?

Martin:   I would fly to a city I have never been to and explore the sites.  I have many cities in mind that I want to go to.  In the last five years, I have been traveling a good bit and I love it.  Maybe I will start somewhere in the northeast.

Brown:   What was the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Martin:  The best compliment was that I did not look like myself after losing 110 pounds. I surely hope not–that was the point!

Brown:  What’s the best and worst thing about getting older?

Martin:  The best part of getting older is definitely having grandchildren and great grands.  They are wonderful and so very special to me.  The worst part of getting older is when your health fails and you realize you just can’t do what you used to do.

Brown:  What’s the title of the current chapter in your life? 

Photo courtesy of Vicki Martin

Martin:  I am not sure what the chapter in my life should be called maybe “Family, Friends, and Doctors.”  

Brown:  Tell us something about yourself that people might not know

Martin:  My children are Rexanne Collins from Calhoun City, MS and Vicki Howe from Bruce, MS.  Rexanne sells real estate and Vicki is a graphic designer at the Institute of Child Nutrition at Ole Miss. Some people may not know that I have 5 grandchildren and 4 great grands. 

I also work for Weight Watchers (WW) since I lost 110 lbs and want to help others with their weight loss.  I started working for WW in 2010. I work in Bruce and Oxford at the present time. 

Brown:  What do you want your epitaph to be?

Martin:  My epitaph . . .  that’s a hard one!  I am still deciding on that. 

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

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