By Lynn Reutens '23
International Housekeepers and Environmental Services Week is held every year during the second week in September. In recognition of this week, the University of Mount Union is proud to celebrate and thank the professional staff members who work behind the scenes on campus. I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to three remarkable women who have played an integral part in this campus setting.
Debbie Knepp, another long serving staff member of Mount Union laughed and said, “I started when I was two! Just kidding but it feels that long. I have been working at Mount for the last 36 years. I started on August 12 in 1985, and in 1990 I became the supervisor. But, after a few years, I decided to step down from the management role to concentrate on my personal life. But I didn’t leave Mount!”
Knepp has two children, Michael and Regena. Regena graduated from Mount Union with a degree in psychology and education and now works at a school in Canton.
“I feel secure in Mount Union,” she said cheerily. “There are great benefits like being able to give my daughter an education, and it is close to home which is the icing on the cake.”
Her encouraging words of advice to students are to stay positive and to stick with the graduation plan because it is important.
“It is important to me that I converse with the students when I can,” she said. “I work in McMaster Hall, and I know when they could miss home. They have a little sad look in their eyes, so I talk to them and try to make them smile and remind them that Mount Union is a great place. I also remember when I first started working here, I was cleaning the offices and worked in Lyle Crist’s office. He was such a wonderful man and never got upset with me when one of his paintings tilted. Maybe you could say it was his kindness that gave me encouragement to stay on.”
Knepp shyly admitted that when she was young, she was called “Peachy,” which is an understandable reflection of her disposition. She has been married for 23 years to James, and beautifully recounts her wedding day by Mount Union lakes in front of the bridge.
“It was just a beautiful and happy day for us,” she said, her eyes filled with love. “He is my best friend, and we sit and talk every day after work about our day. I have to say he does all the cooking and smokes good ribs. Everyone calls him ‘Papa James’.”
It is no surprise that Knepp’s beautiful charisma continues to inspire and encourage the students in the residential halls that she works in. Though her eyes gave away a little sadness when she talked about her retirement days ahead in time.
“It may be one more year till I say goodbye,” she said “I must go, I know, but I must prepare myself for this. It’s not easy just walking away from something that I have been part of for 36 years. Mount Union has been phenomenal and made me part of its family. I really love my time here. Maybe in my retirement years I might visit Romania. I worked with another housekeeper, Ana, who came from Romania, and we have since remained friends. I have made lots of friends here at Mount Union.”