The Long Run: Donald Baldwin

University employees with more than 4 decades under their belts reflect on their careers

They arrived in the 1970s, some after serving in Vietnam, some fresh out of high school or college. More than 40 years later, they still come to work at the University of South Carolina — some after officially “retiring.”

“This is such a great place to work, people don’t want to leave,” says Caroline Agardy, vice president for Human Resources. “They’re proud to work for the University of South Carolina and dedicated to making higher education their life’s work.”

The workers who have committed their careers to the university agree. They stay because they like learning something new every day, helping young students find their way in an increasingly complicated world and interacting with co-workers who feel like family.

TIMES spoke with a few of these long-term employees to see what keeps them coming back to work on campus, long after they could have settled into that place in the mountains or that home by the sea.

Making Payroll

Donald Baldwin began his state employment on July 1, 1966, at what was then known as the South Carolina Tax Commission. Six and a half years later, he joined the payroll department at the university and has been there ever since — with an occasional break.

“I started off as the supervisor of the hourly section, the temporary workers, student workers, then I moved to salaried graduate students,” Baldwin says. He served as assistant director for faculty and staff payroll and then as assistant director of operations. 

He remembers those early days when all the tabulating was done by hand and “direct deposit” meant driving paychecks to local banks. The biggest change came in 1976 when an in-house electronic payroll system went live. “It was like going from a Model-A to a Cadillac,” he says. 

But changes in technology never changed Baldwin’s approach to his job.

“I learned a very important lesson early on with the student workers,” he says. “Their money is just as important to them as the president’s money is to him — sometimes more so. When people came in here with problems with their paycheck, their problem was the biggest thing in their lives that day. I just tried to help people, have a little empathy for what they were going through.”

It is that desire to help people that brings Baldwin into the office two days a week, mostly completing verification of employment forms for the university system’s more than 15,000 employees. 

“I love coming up here,” he says. “I really enjoy my co-workers, even though it’s a whole new crew from when I started. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to try to be of service to the university all these years.”

Share this Story! Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about