Dennis House leaves Emory with a lasting legacy of service

Dennis House.

Dennis House (operations & access specialist) is retiring after 17 years of work at the security desk in the Woodruff Library. During that time he has been a beloved fixture in Emory Libraries, to staff and students alike.

Born and raised in Greenville, NC, Dennis learned the value of hard work by toiling in the tobacco fields as a young man. He attended Wilson Junior College, where he studied construction and landfill management, with a focus on heavy equipment operation. After working in that industry, and being bored by it, Dennis joined the Army in 1978.

Young Dennis.

Dennis started his Army career as an air defense radar specialist “to make sure they didn’t shoot down the wrong plane,” then went into transportation management. Dennis was stationed in Giessen, Germany, Ft. Campbell, TN, Badenhausen, Germany, Savannah, GA, Mannheim, Germany, and Ft. Hood, TX.

Dennis got out of the Army in 1991, then came to Atlanta in 1997 when his brother retired here. Dennis was soon hired at Emory where he would work almost the entire time under the tutelage of his manager, Terence Jefferson. “I’ve had a great manager,” says Dennis.

According to Terence, “It has been rewarding to have Dennis on staff. He’s been disciplined with understanding protocol and customer service. He takes initiative and does the things that need to be done. I’ve relied on him for filling in for me when I’m out, and he’s my go-to person when I need something done. He has been a great benefit to the team.”

Terence Jefferson (L) and Dennis.

Dennis worked at Emory for three years, then moved back to NC when his sister passed away. “I needed to regroup.” Dennis worked for five years at the Airport Authority at Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), in visitor’s services. His office was situated in the center of the airport, and he assisted passengers to get to their flights, worked with kids traveling alone, translated German when needed, and provided almost anything the airport had to offer. He was even featured in an RDU marketing campaign for helping passengers with quick departure from airport parking.

Mayor Andrew Young and Dennis.

Before long, however, Dennis decided to return to Atlanta to care for his ailing brother. He and Terence had stayed in touch and Dennis was able to secure his previous position at Emory, where he has remained ever since.

“Emory has been very good to me,” says Dennis. “I’ve had great experiences working with library events.” Over the years, Dennis has met President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis, and Alice Walker. “It has been rewarding to meet people of such great stature and work with the outstanding people of Emory,” says Dennis. According to Terence, “I always selected Dennis to work special events because of his ability to work well with people. Staff have often requested to have him work based on his sensitivity to all their needs and details.”

Dennis can be light-hearted, but chickens??

With regards to the students, Dennis says, “I created a rapport with the students and their parents. I encouraged them to work hard and focus. I am going to miss them. They are funny, diverse and full of energy. They’ve kept me young.”

“Dennis is really sweet, but also very direct and honest,” says grad student LaRyssa Herrington (MDIV, 20). “I love it because we don’t have enough of those people in the world.”

Emory students were responsible for two of Dennis’ craziest Emory memories. Laughed Dennis, “Near graduation, two male students came running through level 2 completely naked, except for mummy wraps around their heads. I turned to my co-worker and said, ‘Did you just see that?’ They sprinted through the library and ran up the stairs to the stacks. They were never found.”

Dennis enjoying some of the sights and sounds of his coming retirement!

Around 2008, another prank was when seniors snuck twenty chickens into the library and set them loose on level 2. “It was an inside job. A student worker opened the emergency door, and other students came through the staff area with chickens,” says Dennis. The Emory Police Department helped security staff to corral the chickens near the stacks area, and they called animal control to pick them up. Unfortunately for the students, the carpet had to be replaced. Security identified the ringleaders, and the students had to reimburse the library for the cost of the carpet ($700 a piece).

When he retires, Dennis plans to travel for a year then settle down back in Greenville, NC. He wants to enjoy his grandkids and go to ball games, especially those of his beloved Carolina Tar Heels. According to Dennis, “I love sports so much I may try to work part time in East Carolina University athletic department.” Dennis also wants to do volunteer work for the Boys and Girls Club.

Thinking about what advice he would give to a new hire at Emory, Dennis says, “I would tell them to enjoy the experience. Follow the policies, stay in line, and take advantage of the educational opportunities. It’s a wonderful place to work.”

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