It’s funny the conversations that can unfold in the chapel. Save for a splash of stained glass, its entrance is unassuming, the sort that doesn’t draw attention. It’s easy to miss it altogether as you round the bend from the hallway connecting Texas A&M College of Dentistry to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
At noon every workday, it’s dental dispensing technician Arlene Williams’ destination. Some days she sits on one of the sage leaf-print chairs, still, reflective. Other times, there are people in need of comfort, like the woman whose son had a brain tumor. Jackson encouraged her, helped her persevere. And on a dark Friday in early July, when the wife of a fallen Dallas police officer was ushered in alongside hospital staff, wracked with grief, it was no different. Mere moments passed before the woman had folded herself into Williams’ arms.
“I’m just grateful that I’ve been obedient to keep up with it,” Williams says of lunchtimes in the chapel. “There are different people who God helps me to meet and to help them hang on. It’s a blessing and privilege.”
So, too, is her work at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.
Sit with Williams for just a moment, and you feel at ease. There’s a calmness there, not too different from what that grieving woman in the chapel may have sensed that July day. She’s soft-spoken, but her tone is even, her words carefully chosen. Jackson’s serenity remains despite weathering more than her share of life’s storms.
When a fire destroyed Williams’ home several years back, it was the college family that surrounded her. And when she was struck by a vehicle last winter, co-workers and students showered her with get-well cards. A welcome back sign is still on the door to the dispensary in the first-floor dental hygiene and periodontics clinic, where she can see it every day.
“That was my favorite — them showing me how much they love and appreciate me,” Williams says.
For 35 years she has called this school her second home. What started as a three-year stint in the housekeeping department transformed into a new opportunity in periodontics when Joy Wilson, former college health nurse, told Williams about an opening in the clinic. After interviewing with Jan Steele and Dr. William Hurt, former chair of periodontics, she was offered the job.
Her responsibilities: Ensure all instruments for the periodontics and dental hygiene clinics are cleaned, sterilized, packaged and stored in their proper places. When students and residents report to the clinic, Williams is ready at the dispensary’s sliding glass window to pass them the tools they need to begin their procedures. She also offers up a kind word — or three.
“My inspiration is when I can encourage students,” Williams says. “When they’re down, I can lift them up. I get to encourage the faculty, too. They’ll come in here, and we’ll talk, and we’ll encourage each other.”
In 10 years of working together, it’s been this way with co-worker Ann Lovelady, dental hygienist in periodontics and the college’s Center for Maxillofacial Prosthodontics.
“If there is anything we need, Arlene is there for us, for me as well as the students,” says Lovelady. “If I have something from a patient, I can bring it to her, and she’s always there, just laid-back, kind and cheerful. She is a very steady, easygoing, loving person.”