Whether she’s notifying students they’ve made the honor roll, updating methods and procedures at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College or painting shutters at home, Bobbie Felder does it with zest.
After more than three decades at OCtech, Felder retired as vice president of Student Services in June.
She says she found the “perfect niche” when she was hired as director of admissions in 1983, not long after her graduation from Clemson University.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I landed here, and it was a perfect fit. It’s been a perfect fit for 31 years.”
She tried to lead by example and has done all the jobs she managed as vice president of Student Services, Felder said.
“I try not to sit here and manage things. I try to roll up my sleeves and work as hard as anyone,” she said.
OCtech President Dr. Walter A. Tobin calls Felder a “servant leader. She gets in the ditch with her folks and is willing to pull her weight. Bobbie is the epitome of the kind of employee we need at this institution.”
Felder noted that over the years, she worked many 11- and 12-hour days. “Some days, some weeks I’ve spent more time here than I have at my own house,” she said. “Sometimes I’d look up and the lights are cutting off and ... it’s 6 o’clock and everyone’s going and it seems like I’ve been here a couple of hours.”
Now Felder says she’s taking on some new ventures she hasn’t had time for before. She says retirement isn’t an ending, but a new beginning.
“I’ve got such a long to-do list,” she said.
Presently, she’s painting her shutters and working in her yard, according to Felder. She also plans to spend some time cooking more creatively, something she wasn’t able to do while she worked.
“My cooking leaves a lot to be desired — my family would agree with that,” she said. “It’s kind of hard when you get home at 8 o’clock to be really motivated ... but mostly, I’m going to look at enjoying life and just having fun.”
She noted that she’s spent 31 years working indoors and it’s time for her to spend time doing what she loves — being outside.
“I love outdoors,” she said. “I love water. My next project will be spending as much time as I can around some water, whether it’s a swimming pool, a lake, the beach.”
Felder says her retirement will also open up new opportunities for the college. Change is good, she said.
“My philosophy is, at a certain point an organization needs some change,” she said. “This is an opportunity to give some other staff who are a little bit younger and who are ambitious an opportunity for promotion.”
Felder said the drawback to retiring is leaving family behind at the college.
“I hate leaving the people here. I love my job. I love this place, but it’s time to give someone else the opportunity to lead,” she said.
All the major events of her life happened while she was working at the college, according to Felder.
“I came here straight out of college,” she said. “People here came to my wedding. People here came to the funerals of my parents.”
Her children were born and grew up while she was at OCtech, Felder said.
“This is my family,” she said. “It really is like I’m leaving my family here to go spend more time with my family in Bowman.”
But she tells friends at the college she’ll be back to visit.
“My husband is a farmer, and I’ve promised them that in a few weeks, I’m going to bring them a big batch of corn,” she said.
Felder said she’s promised friends — just to keep them on their toes — that she’ll be pulling some pranks on them.
“I’m full of mischief and I’ll pop in on them every now and then,” she said. “I’ve told them all I’m going to create alias email addresses and I’m going to be a mystery student. I’m going to email them and they’ll never know if it’s real or whether it’s Bobbie Felder.”
Felder, who was consistently promoted from one position to another over the years, served as counselor, advisor, admissions director, registrar, Job Placement director, Financial Aid director, Dean of Enrollment Management, Dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs.
Her advice to young people entering the workforce is to “do more than just enough” to keep their jobs.
“You should dress for the job you want, not the one you have,” she said. “Work harder than you have to where people can say, ‘This person is doing above and beyond.’”
As she looks back over the years, Felder said she’s seen amazing changes at OCtech. One major change came in 1995, when all the typewriters were replaced with computers, she said.
Additionally, she’s seen enrollment explode from about 1,200 students to more than 3,000, she said. New buildings have been added and programs increased from about 20 to more than 80.
In 2000, programs that were transferable to four-year institutions were added. About five years ago, the middle college was added to accept high school students. That’s increased from 125 to 650 students, she said.
But Felder said she’s worked long enough to retire and she’s confident she’s leaving things in safe hands. She attributes any “successes and accomplishments” she enjoyed at OCtech to her “exceptional staff, which is truly dedicated to the work they do and to helping students.
“I take a lot of pride and comfort knowing that I am leaving my students in good hands.”
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