*Editor’s Note: The latest installment in the Ole Miss Retirees features is Becky Drewery. Drewery worked in several offices throughout her career at Ole Miss and retired from the Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning (IREP). 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.
Becky Drewrey is as talented as she is modest. She has a wonderful sense of humor and her first priority is always her family. Her photographs are very personal and very beautiful. The images portray her concept of beauty and simple pleasures. I’m certain you will enjoy her Ole Miss story.
Brown: Where did you grow up? What is special about the place you grew up?
Drewrey: I was born in Joliet, Illinois, but my early years were spent in Abbeville, Mississippi, and later on we moved to Toccopola, Mississippi. I attended Lafayette and South Pontotoc schools. We had, and still have, family in both locations. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of time spent with those family members, playing board games or playing outside and then sharing meals together.
Brown: Please talk about your childhood.
Drewrey: I grew up with sisters and surrounded by family and friends. We spent time outdoors all day in the summer, either at our own house or a friend’s house. We would walk or ride our bikes back and forth between our house and our friends’ houses. I never was good at sports and preferred to read if I wasn’t outside, but I did enjoy watching my cousins play baseball.
Brown: What are your earliest and favorite childhood memories?
Drewrey: My early and favorite memories include big holiday gatherings at my grandmother’s house. There was always good food, lots of people, and so much noise with everyone talking at once, and so much laughter. Later on, I enjoyed the same family holidays at David’s grandmother’s house. We both have large families. Our grandmothers have both passed now, but those days hold fond memories for me and I miss them.
Brown: What’s your favorite holiday? Why?
Drewrey: With our children and grandchildren living in different states, any holiday that we can all gather is my favorite. But, as an adult, I think my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because we do gather as a family and that is what I’m most thankful for.
Brown: What were your favorite holiday traditions as a child?
Drewrey: At the time, I didn’t realize it was a tradition, but for Christmas we all got three gifts from Santa and our mother gave us a gift or two from her. She was a single mother raising three children so money was always tight, but she still managed to get us things that we wanted, in addition to things we needed.
Brown: How did you and your husband David meet?
Drewrey: We met through a mutual friend and after two children, four grandchildren (grandbaby No. 5 is due next spring) and nearly 40 years of marriage, the rest, as they say, is history.
Brown: Tell us about your Ole Miss story. When and why did you begin working at Ole Miss? Who hired you? How many years did you work at Ole Miss?
Drewrey: I wanted to work at Ole Miss so I could have the same holidays and time off that David had. My story began in the Ole Miss Bookstore. Ernest Oliver hired me as Accounting Clerk and Rosemary Windham was my direct supervisor. We moved out of state for a couple of years and when we returned, Jim Windham and Roger Lyles hired me to work in Campus Mail as Billing Clerk and Ricky Murchison was my direct supervisor. My next position was Senior Secretary for Dr. Dennis Feller in the Department of Pharmacology. I was then hired by Dr. Jim Nichols as Administrative Coordinator I in Institutional Research, Effectiveness, and Planning (IREP). I worked in that office for nearly 18 years before I retired with 25 years of service in 2017. Currently, I am working part-time in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. Dr. Stephen Monroe and Glenn Schove hired me and Glenn is my direct supervisor.
Brown: What positions did you hold? What were some of your responsibilities?
Drewrey: My first position was Accounting Clerk at the Ole Miss Bookstore. Everything was done by hand back then. My responsibilities were to take the paperwork from the departmental charges and tally those up daily and monthly, help with the daily countdown of all registers and make deposits. I assisted the front desk with buybacks as well.
As Campus Mail Billing Clerk, I billed the departments for their mail charges and that was done on a daily basis. In the beginning, those charges were written on mail cards and I entered them in the computer. Eventually, the system was upgraded so that the mailing machines were connected to the computer.
The first time I used email was in my position as Senior Secretary in Pharmacology. Most of the paperwork in that position was done by hand, but technology was a major part of my Administrative Coordinator I position in IREP. Some of my duties in these positions included making travel arrangements, ordering supplies for students who worked in the labs, arranging meetings and providing general clerical support for the department heads and other staff members.
In my current part-time position, I process room reservations for Lamar Hall, greet visitors to the office, answer the phone and handle lost and found for the building.
Brown: Ole Miss has undergone many changes during the years you worked there. Is there something that stands out in your memory as significant? If so, what is it?
Drewrey: What stands out to me is how technology has changed over the years. From lots of paperwork and everything handwritten and mailed, to almost everything being processed on the computer and sent electronically.
Brown: What advice would you give to a young woman about to enter the workforce?
Drewrey: If that young woman is entering the workforce as a staff member at Ole Miss, I would encourage her to take advantage of the tuition waiver and take classes. Even if it takes years to get a degree, it will be well worth her time.
Brown: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Drewrey: Becoming a grandmother is hands down my greatest accomplishment. But to reach that goal, we first had to raise our two children and I gladly share that accomplishment with David. Phoebe is our oldest grandchild, she just turned 12. Sophie is our next born grandchild and she is 10. Brantley is our third grandchild and our only grandson and he is 8. Presley is our baby, at almost 6, but she will soon lose the youngest title when grandbaby No. 5 arrives next spring. They call me Meme and they all have me wrapped around their little fingers.
Brown: What are your hobbies?
Drewrey: Reading, cross-stitching and I dabble a little bit in photography. I would never call myself a photographer, but I have a good camera and I love to take pictures and occasionally, I take a picture that I actually like, such as this one of the Lyceum with a dogwood tree in the foreground. It will always be one of my favorites.
These days, I mostly take pictures with my cell phone and I have thousands of pictures on my phone at any given time.
Brown: Are you a morning or night person?
Drewrey: I am a morning person. I like to be up when the house is still quiet and to watch the sun rise. I always liked getting to work early when no one else was in the office so that I could ease into my day and then watch as the office and campus came alive as others arrived. My work day now begins at 8 a.m., but for many years, I arrived for work at 7:30 am and the last year or two before I retired, I arrived at 7 a.m. There are rewards for getting to work so early, such as having the opportunity to take this picture of the Peddle Bell Tower in front of a gorgeous sunrise.
Brown: How do you unwind after a hard day?
Drewrey: David and I like to ride the backroads in our old jeep. We call it jeep therapy.
Brown: Are you spontaneous or a planner?
Drewrey: I’ve always been a planner. I like structure and I like to know what to expect, but I’m becoming a little more spontaneous as I get older.
Brown: What remains on your “bucket list?”
Drewrey: Traveling more and to visit every state. I believe we have visited 29 or 30 states so far. My favorite vacations have been spent with our children when they were younger. We took two trips out west and saw various sites, including Yellowstone, Pike’s Peak and the Grand Canyon, among other sites. I’ve also been fortunate to travel with David when he takes business trips. Those trips have helped me work on my bucket list of visiting every state and while I enjoy visiting big cities, I am always glad to get back home to our small town and our country life.
Brown: How do you want to be remembered?
Drewrey: I would like to be remembered as being kind to others and I would like for my grandkids to be able to look back with fond memories of time spent with us.