Allaire receives Freda Hebb Award

The Johnson State College mailroom is the place where home life connects with school for students, and the woman behind this resource has received the highest of honors possible for a JSC staff member this year.

For 15 years, Dianne Allaire has worked at JSC serving as the mailroom director. This year, she has been recognized for her work by receiving the Freda Hebb award. Hebb worked for JSC as registrar and assistant to the president for 38 years, from 1934 to 1972. Her award goes to a staff member who best demonstrates her dedication and outstanding service.

“I was completely overwhelmed and surprised,” said Allaire. “I hadn’t anticipated winning, or even being nominated for a big award. It was a complete honor.”

Allaire came to JSC after getting married and being attracted to the prospect of working around college-age students. She says that it was not the postal service that really drew her attention to this position, but rather the college itself.

“I like the idea of working close to home, and with college students—really that was the initial draw,” Allaire said. When she first started, Allaire worked part-time and under the previous long-term director Annie Boivin for a few years before she retired.

Before Johnson, Allaire worked for the Mt. Washington Hotel and Resort in Bretton Woods, NH for 10 years, managing a restaurant and lounge facility called Fabyans. Here, she was also recognized through an outstanding service award.

Allaire is a Morrisville Vt. native, who graduated from People’s Academy. For Thanksgiving one year, she returned to visit home from NH and spent an evening out with her sister-in-law. It was then that she reconnected with a man she had known in school, who would later become her husband.

Before getting married, Allaire spent a lot of time travelling to places like Florida and Mexico. Travelling has always been something that she has had a passion for, having briefly attended college in Pittsburgh, Pa. for travel and tourism.

“I wanted to be a travel agent,” said Allaire. “I liked the idea of travelling and having free trips, and I still like the idea of travelling and having free trips!”

However, Allaire quickly found out that the city life wasn’t for her. “I took a train down and I lasted not quite a month,” she said. “I got right back on the train and got back to Vermont. It wasn’t worth it to me, I was so homesick and we had night classes…we lived in a hotel room, that was like the dorms. You go into the city on the bus…and I mean, the classes were interesting, but I just couldn’t get over being homesick.”

If she could travel anywhere, Allaire says she would love to go to Australia and Hawaii. Hawaii she would visit for the scenery and the warmth, and because her mom went there and loved it. She would like to go to Australia to experience the culture, and especially the kangaroos and koala bears.

However, Allaire says that she is perfectly happy at Johnson, and wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. She especially enjoys watching as students change through their time at college.

“I really enjoy working with the young students,” she said. “It’s a joy. Sometimes I see when [students] come in as a freshman and it’s a whole new thing. I enjoy helping students make it through their first semester, second semester. We’re a go-to place to reconnect with home.”

Allaire fondly recalls one student who worked in the admissions office from Sudan, who was extremely dedicated to his job and school work. “My husband and I got really attached to him,” she said, “he always dressed so professionally. My husband said, ‘When he graduates, we’re going to buy him a suit,’ so we did. We took him to Arthurs, what used to be a department store in Morrisville, and they fit him for a suit. We ended up buying him a shirt and a tie and socks to go with the whole suit. He was proud as could be to wear that on graduation day, and that was a real joy for us, to be a part of that.”

Allaire hosts a barbecue right before commencement to celebrate her student workers, and get a chance to spend time with them outside of the mailroom. She enjoys working alongside them and the other staff members at JSC, as well as working with the mail itself and the challenges that it brings due to all of the regulations.

The regulations are not the only challenge that Allaire has encountered while working in the mailroom. During the renovation of the Stearns Student Center, the mailroom made a temporary move to the SHAPE facility. All of the student’s boxes were relocated to the racquetball court, and Allaire’s office was squeezed into what used to be a laundry or storage room. She remembers the daily sprint down the hallway to the doors by the multi-gym, where the mail carriers would drop off packages that she would then have to stack along the hallway.

After 15 years of directing the mailroom and facing its challenges, Allaire says that she hopes for many more years doing so.

“I envision working until I’m too old to sort mail, too old to lift boxes,” she said. “I enjoy my job and I just hope I can keep it until I can’t physically do it any longer.” She acknowledges her job here as one of the things that she is most proud of in her life, along with her home, husband, stepson and now, her Freda Hebb award.