by Brook Gardner-Durbin
Gloria Wallace has worked in Montana State University’s Financial Aid office for twelve years. “It has been a long time, but I enjoy it,” she says, “and there’s nothing like doing what you love.” While other classmates went into more financially rewarding fields, Wallace decided to pursue her childhood dream of working in an overcrowded office with no windows. “There are some downsides, to be sure,” she admits, including occasionally actually providing students enough money to live on, “but there are a lot of perks too. I always tell new employees to hang in there, and then one day they get their first magical moment on the job, and they’re hooked.”
David Harrison, who has worked with Wallace for five years, remembers his first day on the job: “At first, it was hard to see the appeal of working there. I was planning on just staying long enough to steal one of the bean bags, then quit. But Wallace convinced me to stick it out and I’ve never been happier.”
The bean bags he refers to litter the Financial Aid office, often to the point of impeding movement. Occasionally they will give way after being stepped on too many times, leaking their stuffing of $100 bills across the floor.
Another co-worker, Judy Newman, is new on the job. “At first it was hard to get the hang of it, but Gloria [Wallace] really helped me learn the ropes. At first I didn’t get why we would have one window open to deal with students, while three of us were playing cards in the back room, or sleeping on the bean bags.”
“It can be hard to learn that the wait can be the best part,” Wallace said with a smile. “We keep them in line a while so they have to skip a class or two, then you get to have that moment that makes it all worthwhile — you get to tell someone ‘no.’ No one ever quits after getting to see a student’s hope crumble because ‘there isn’t enough money.’”
Everyone in the office agreed with Wallace. “The best are the criers,” added Harrison. “We try to collect the tears for the coffee machine.” The coffee machine in question is made from solid gold, with inlays of black pearl and two black rhinoceros horns. “You want one?” he asked an Exponent reporter. “We have, like, twelve of these lying around.”
Despite the enjoyment she receives from the job, however, Wallace has started to consider retirement. “Students can be so mean,” she explains. “Sometimes, I think they don’t even consider my feelings before being forced to drop out to go work McDonalds the rest of their lives. The things they say … I just don’t know why they have to be so cruel.”
With her annual salary of $500,000, an island in the Caribbean, and three souls, Wallace has managed to squirrel a little away, leaving her with big plans for the next stage of her life. “I’d like to get involved in some sort of charity work, maybe disaster relief. I think it would be nice to be one of the first to arrive where people needed help, have the first boots on the ground, and really just not do anything for them at all.”
Gloria Wallace’s retirement party will be held on Wednesday, September 17, in the appreciation wing of the third circle of Hell. Well wishers and fans are welcome.