Emory Report
August 3, 2009
Volume 61, Number 36


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August 3, 2009
28 years of service to students

By Tania Dowdy

To Reta Cobb, it seems like just yesterday she arrived at Oxford College to serve as the administrative assistant to the dean of campus life.

Since then, historic buildings have undergone renovations; concrete pathways have been bricked; classrooms are equipped with smart boards; and students have come and gone. But almost 28 years later, Oxford still feels like home.

“I never regretted the day that I applied for this position,” says Cobb. “It has been very rewarding.”
In the early 1980s, African Americans mostly occupied custodial and food service positions on campus. However, despite being the only African American to hold an administrative position at the time, she felt “very well-accepted.”

“Oxford’s such a loving campus and a family type of workplace. It really wasn’t that hard to move into the position,” the longtime Newton County resident says. “I enjoy people, but the thing I enjoy most is the students.”

Campus Life at Oxford has an open-door policy, which allows students, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles away from home, to come and talk about academic or personal concerns. Cobb’s welcoming smile and warm greetings puts students at ease, and allows them to feel like they are a part of her extended family.

“By this being their first time away from home,” says Cobb, “you take them under your wing and try to make them feel like they’re at home away from home.”

Over the years, Cobb has taken a number of students under her “wing” and many have become successful professionals.

“I told one student you are going to be my lawyer and the other student, you’re going to be my doctor,” she laughs. “You’re sad to see them leave but you’re really proud to see what they have accomplished.”

As a role model, Cobb instills in student workers the importance of professionalism and timeliness through the commitment she shows to her position.

That dedication is embodied in the Reta Cobb Award, established in 1991 by the Black Student Alliance at Oxford. The award is presented to an individual who displays outstanding service and is an excellent role model for all students.

The inaugural presentation of the award was a surprise to Cobb, who calls herself “a behind-the-scenes person.” Awards of distinction lay face down on her desk and are often unnoticed by visitors.

“Accolades and stuff of that nature is not what I thrive on,” she says. “I felt like God put me in this position, and anything God blesses you with, He expects you to share it with others rather than be boastful.”

Among the ceramic angels, flowers and family photos on her desk, Cobb displays small notes of appreciation, which are posted on her typewriter that students have written to her over the years. For example, one student writes, “Mrs. Cobb is an inspiration to all of us at Oxford. Keep up the good work!”
Cobb credits much of her optimistic attitude to her strong faith, and while nothing may surprise her much anymore, a new generation of students will soon enter the Oxford campus.

“After 28 years, you see a lot. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that an individual wants to feel love and love never changes,” she smiles. “You never know what type of environment students come from, but love is the key to everything.”