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.