Gilmer Honored for 40 Years of Service
January 24, 2003
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In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I had a dream” speech. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. And Doug Gilmer made his way to Guilford College.
Gilmer, now the food service manager, began washing dishes in the Guilford College Cafeteria after he had accumulated some debt. He made $.60 per hour when he came to work in the kitchen.
“I got laid off around Christmas,” he said. “This was the only job I could find at the time.”
Now, 40 years later, Guilford honored him in the Walnut room on Monday, Jan. 13, 2003. With an arm each hugging the other person’s body, Adrienne Israel and Gilmer stood with smiles too wide for a tape measure to quantify. Israel, the vice president and academic dean who has known Gilmer for 21 years, spoke for a humble man who was unwilling to do so himself in front of the Guilford community members that gathered to honor him.
“I remember Doug going up on stage [at graduation],” Israel said. “He had on his apron, he was so humble about the
award … The students gave him a standing ovation.”
He wasn’t always receiving standing ovations, however. “I remember when the black workers could not eat in the dining room; we had to eat in the kitchen,” he said, later adding, “I’ve seen cross burnings on this campus … There was racism here, but no one talked about it.”
Regardless of the racial tension he has witnessed, Gilmer remains steadfast in his convictions. “When people are in need and they don’t have, he opens his heart,” said Ann Hill, a building services technician who has known Gilmer for 25 years. “He helps students who could not afford things for themselves … I don’t think he’d let anybody go hungry.”
Gilmer remained modest despite his noteworthy deeds.
“I don’t feel like I accomplished anything,” he said. “I get to meet so many people and people always come back to see Doug … I enjoy the Christmas cards I get.”
Touching people’s lives does not feel like an accomplishment to some people – for Doug Gilmer, it’s just a way of life.