Warpenburg remembered by those she worked with

Cassie Buchman, Staff Reporter

Ask those who worked with Pamela Warpenburg what they remember about her,and her upbeat personality and willingness to help others are likely to come up.

That, and her love for her family and all things Disney.

People Warpenburg worked with throughout the years took time to remember her following her death Saturday morning from a motor vehicle accident near Villa Grove.

Warpenburg’s career at Eastern spanned nearly 25 years, according to the university newsletter.

She started out working in the Gateway program, then worked as a secretary in the Office of Minority Affairs. She then worked in Housing and Dining before going back to the division of Minority Affairs to work as an office support specialist for TRiO.

Maggie Burkhead, director of TRiO, described Warpenburg as a loving, caring person who was still a “child at heart” when it came to anything Disney.

Warpenburg had been to Disney World at least 60 times, according to her obituary.

When Warpenburg was working in the Gateway office, she had Disney statues, figurines, calendars and pictures, something she continued in her office for TRiO.

Warpenburg came in to the job and embraced the friendly, cordial environment of the office, Burkhead said.

“We laugh, we joke but we get the work done,” Burkhead said.  “When (Warpenburg) came into it she was ready for that-to do the work  and get it done.”

Burkhead said Warpenburg was able to help all kinds of non-traditional students served in TRiO.

“We work with non-traditional, first generation students, students with disabilities, who may be older, may have children,” Burkhead said. “She was able to work with all of them.”

Having worked in both the Gateway Program and TRiO Student Support Services, Warpenburg would often be the first person students would see before meeting with their advisers.

Don Dawson, an academic adviser in the Gateway program, said Warpenburg could be a calming influence on students who came to their academic advisers with issues.

“She would kind of talk to them out front a little bit, because that way it broke some of the tension,” Dawson said.

When students came to the door of the Gateway program, they instantly felt the friendly, familial atmosphere when they saw Warpenburg, Dawson said.

Warpenburg had been working with the Gateway Program since it started under former director of Minority Affairs Johnetta Jones.

Dawson said because of this, Warpenburg knew the ins and outs of the program, every routine and when everything had to get done.

“She had that all ready to go for us when new people would start working here,” Dawson said. “She was a great worker, detailed, very organized.”

Dawson said when  Warpenburg came across some good, clean jokes, she would always send them out. Other times, she would send out uplifting devotionals.

Mona Davenport, director of Minority Affairs, said working with Warpenburg was “phenomenal.”

Davenport said Warpenburg always went above and beyond to assist students who came to the office looking for information.

“I just think everybody that had an opportunity to talk to Pam,they know her passion for serving EIU was phenomenal,” Davenport said. “You always saw a smile on her face, she would always try to help you.”

Davenport said she had 250 responses to a Facebook post about Warpenburg’s death.

One called Warpenburg a “true steward,” while someone else said they “thought the world” of her.

Other posts by students cited how comfortable Warpenburg would make them feel when asking  questions or when they had any doubts.

Warpenburg did not just help students in the TRiO and Gateway offices, though.

“It became a friendship beyond 9 to 5,” Davenport said.

After Davenport’s mother died three years ago, Warpenburg supported her, and Davenport did the same for her after Warpenburg’s father died.

“My little nephews, brother, everybody knows Pam,” Davenport said. “It’s grown to be the best of friendships.”

Warpenburg would even help Davenport on her own trips to Disney World.

“Every time I went to Disney, Pam would have everything set up for me,” Davenport said.

“She would give me the entire process of where I needed to go, what parks, everything I needed to know.”

According to Warpenburg’s obituary, it is requested that thoughtful donations in her honor be made to the National Kidney Foundation.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]