Marilyn Dunnaway Bids GBHEM Farewell After 42 Years

Danecia Jones
December 12, 2016
Marilyn Dunnaway
It was 42 years ago when 17-year-old Marilyn Dunnaway first entered the doors of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) for a job interview. Applying for a clerk-typist position with the Office of Loans and Scholarships, Marilyn was hired the same week she interviewed. Excited to enter into the professional world, Marilyn, skipped the summer break after her senior year of high school to begin what would become a lifelong career at GBHEM. 
“A guidance counselor told me about the job with GBHEM. I honestly didn’t know much about the agency before I began working,” Marilyn said. “However, I was amazed by the work done to help young people identify their calling, and the investments the agency made in all types of education.”
Flash forward 42 years later, Marilyn is now preparing to leave the first, and only, department she has worked for since joining the agency. Marilyn has held a range of positions during her time at GBHEM, including serving as the go-to computer person in her department when the devices were first introduced into the agency in the 1980s. She later moved into her current position as loan payment coordinator. In this role, Marilyn works with students, cosigners and educational institutions on billing and loan repayments. She also answers phone calls and emails from the borrowers, as well as manages payment systems. 
“It really doesn’t feel like 42 years have passed. I have worked with such fabulous people over the years who took me under their wings,” Marilyn said. “What we do in Loans and Scholarships, helping students get the money they need to attend college, is much more than a job or work. What we do is a ministry and it makes a difference in so many people’s lives.” 
Over the years, Marilyn has talked to thousands of students and parents, with many memorable conversations. “I once talked to a mother who was calling to check on her child’s loans. During our talk she told me she had to pull over her 18 wheeler, which was full of chocolate,” Marilyn said. “After the conversation, she offered to bring me chocolate anytime she drives through Nashville.”
Working in loans and scholarships repayment may seem like a difficult job at times, but Marilyn feels the exact opposite. “It’s very fulfilling and heartwarming to hear from students that the loan or scholarship they received from our office made it possible for them to go to college.”
When asked what she wants to be most remembered for, Marilyn replied, “I hope people remember that I care about everyone. I love people and care what happens to them.” Marilyn’s team will undoubtedly remember her caring nature, as most used those words in their descriptions of her. “She has a heart of gold. Marilyn will do any and everything for people,” said Fodina Henderson, loan and scholarships coordinator. Allyson Collinsworth, executive director of the Office of Loans and Scholarships added, “Marilyn is kind, fun and loyal. She has taught us the importance of gathering as a group in all celebrations … and potlucks make the gatherings all the better. We will miss her laugh and positive spirit.” Alicia Troutman, loan account coordinator shared her memories, stating, “I will most miss Marilyn’s sense of humor and her life’s perspective.”
“It feels good to have 42 years, and I hope no one tops my record,” Marilyn said. “There are a few people who are close, but I promised Alvesta, [a former Loans and Scholarship employee] that I wouldn’t break her 43-year record, so I hope others promise not to break mine.” 
After retirement Marilyn is planning an eventful summer vacation, to make up for the one she skipped after her high school graduation to take the job at GBHEM. Described by her family as the matriarch, Marilyn will also spend much of her new free time with them, serving as the event planner for family celebrations and reunions. She is also interested in volunteering with groups that provide rides for seniors to attend their medical appointments. 
Marilyn’s retirement plans would not be complete without travel. In addition to planning her trips, she is also interested in learning to fly a plane. “It may be surprising to people, but I’ve always wanted to learn to fly a plane – probably because of my love for travel,” Marilyn said. “I’ve looked into a course at the Smyrna airport and can’t wait to start.” 
With 42 years of experience at the agency, Marilyn has a wealth of information and wisdom to share. She says the most important thing for current and new employees to remember is communication. “Communication is everything – always keep the lines of communications open with each other.” 
“Thinking about retirement does bring a few tears to my eyes,” Marilyn said. “I’ve had a good run and truly enjoyed my time at GBHEM – it is a great place to work. People come to work at GBHEM, and they stay. That speaks to the agency and the people in it. I will cherish the memories I’ve made here.” 
GBHEM will host a retirement party in Marilyn’s honor this December. Those who would like to share congratulations and well wishes, are invited to email the Office of Loans and Scholarships at GBHEM at
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