Kay Arellano started out as a secretary, then was the administrative assistant for three faculty members, and now is the undergraduate student liaison, senior business assistant, and alumni coordinator in the Department of Natural Resources Management at Texas Tech University. She was in the department for 35 years when she decided to retire, but she could not stay away for long. After a month at home, she found herself back on campus and has been working part-time ever since.
“My husband asks me all the time, ‘When do you think you’re really going to retire?’ and I say, ‘when they make me,’” Arellano said.
Arellano said her family bleeds red and black, and she could not see herself working at any university besides Texas Tech.
“We’ve just always been Tech people,” Arellano said. “We love Lubbock; it’s home.”
Arellano is still in the same building on campus, 44 years later, with everyone knowing her as Mrs. Kay. She said in these past 44 years, she has touched the lives of about 1,400 undergraduate students, 400 graduate students, and 60 faculty members.
Mrs. Kay has a passion for working with students and has established many relationships with them. She has become a second mom, a mentor, and a friend to many that have come and sat in the legendary chair in her office. “The chair” is just a plain wooden chair, but it acted as a safe place for students.
“Sometimes students just need to talk to somebody. You know, their parents aren’t here and they just didn’t know where to go,” Mrs. Kay said. “That is one of the neat things that I remember, is students sitting in ‘the chair.’”
Texas Tech Wildlife Management alumna and Mrs. Kay’s former student, Jena Moon, said “the chair” was so special because of the conversations and support the students received while there.
“From that prospective, it was the most comfortable, lovely place on campus,” Moon said.
Patty Hill, an environmental analyst, and another one of Mrs. Kay’s former students, remembers her time in “the chair.”
“You don’t really tell your heart’s story to a stranger, but she didn’t come off as a stranger,” Hill said. “She came across as your best friend and that allowed me to open up and really pour my heart out.”
Meghan Mahurin, a graduate student in wildlife management, had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Kay at orientation. Mahurin said when she came to Texas Tech, she was a non-traditional student considering she was 27 years old.
“I was super nervous about it and I don’t know why. I just didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, being the oldest person in the class,” Mahurin said. “She was so nice and welcoming and made me feel like even though I was out of place, I wasn’t.”
Mrs. Kay said she could not see herself doing anything else since she loves helping the students so much. It was important to her she loved her job. Her husband told her if she loves it so much then stick with it, which she did.
“There were a couple of bumps in the road, but then I got to thinking there are going to be bumps…wherever I go,” Mrs. Kay said, “I know the people that I am working with and they are super wonderful people, so that’s why I just stayed.”
Graduate student Mahurin said she is not really sure what Mrs. Kay’s job title is, other than her name has become a title.
“Mrs. Kay is the fabric of the whole department; we couldn’t function without her,” Mahurin said. “It’s just going to have to shut down when she finally decides to retire.”
Mrs. Kay said throughout the years she has stayed connected with some of the alumni. Now she said she is seeing those students’ kids, so it is really neat to see the second generation.
Alumnae Jena Moon and Patty Hill said they have both stayed in touch with Mrs. Kay.
“I think that her having an interest in how your life goes after you leave the university setting is really wonderful and has really touched me in a personal way,” Moon said.
“She still remembers us, still remembers everything about us and cherishes us still,” Hill said. “We’re not her students; we’re her kids.”