Students stage surprise for ‘surrogate mom’
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Not too many things get by Virginia Covington, educational
administrator in the School of Medicine’s Office of Student Affairs.
But, somehow, on Tuesday, scores of cunning medical students
slipped past her with a dozen pink roses, sandwiches, cupcakes, balloons and a cake
All this, and more, awaited her when she entered the lower
amphitheater on a make-believe mission cooked up by her boss, Dr. Jerry Clark.
“Happy birthday,” some 200 voices roared, and Covington knew
that, after working here for nearly two decades, she’d finally been had.
“I don’t know what to
say,” she said, once fourth-year student Kevin Randolph had parked a birthday
hat on her head. “Usually, I know everything.”
After extinguishing the letter-shaped candles spelling out
“Happy Birthday,” Covington said, “I’m glad they didn’t have all the candles.
Even I don’t have enough hot air to blow that out.”
Covington, who turned 60, has spent about a third of her
years helping students get through medical school and, at times, life.
“She has served as surrogate mom for a generation,” said
Clark, the school’s chief student affairs officer and associate dean for
In November, she’ll celebrate her 20th
anniversary here in a role she took following various jobs at what was then
called the Employment Security Commission, Milwaukee Tool and a General
“I had worked at one time as a cashier at the Sunflower in
Maywood Mart,” Covington said. One of her customers was Dr. Lincoln Arceneaux,
Clark’s predecessor in the Office of Student Affairs.
Virginia Covington, center, was honored in early 2014, when the 2013 edition of the annual student yearbook, The Medic, was dedicated to her by the Associated Student Body. Many of her family members were on hand to congratulate her.
When Covington found out he needed a secretary, she applied. “It worked out,” she said. “I loved it. I love the students. I was their mother; I still am.”
Lauren Schober, a second-year student from Diamondhead, was one of several students who waited in line to give Covington a hug as she held court at her party.
“She kind of takes care of us,” Schober said. “I don’t think I ever had any question she wasn’t able to help me with. You know you can always go to her.”
Sarah Ali, a third-year student who got wind of Covington’s approaching birthday earlier this month, was a major organizer of the surprise. “Everybody played a big role,” Ali said.
“But it’s a very small gesture compared to what she does for everyone. She deserves it, and more.”