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Bonnie Brown: Q&A With Former UM SAP Training Coordinator, Onice Carter

*Editor’s Note: The latest installment in the Ole Miss Retirees features is former SAP Training Coordinator Onice Carter. The organization’s mission is to enable all of the university’s faculty and staff retirees to maintain and promote a close association with the university. It is the goal of the Ole Miss Faculty/Staff Retirees Association to maintain communication by providing opportunities to attend and participate in events and presentations.

Everyone knows Onice Carter, whether she assisted you when she worked in the Computer Center on campus or has helped you at the Ole Miss Credit Union. She’s a dedicated Ole Miss sports fan and admits to being a long-time viewer of Survivor. One thing for sure – she’s a loyal friend and goes out of her way to help folks in so many ways. Here’s her Ole Miss story:

Carter with former UM Chancellor Robert Khayat. Photo provided.

Brown: Where did you grow up? What is special about the place you grew up? Please talk about your childhood and parents.

Carter: The first few years of my life we lived in St. Louis, Missouri. While I was in kindergarten, we moved back home to Mississippi. So, I attended first and second grades at Hurricane. Then we moved back to St. Louis and I attended third, fourth, fifth, and half of the sixth grades there. Then, we moved back to Mississippi and I am still here. I am the youngest of three children. I am the baby and the only girl – so yes, I am sure I was/am spoiled. I will always remember the Christmas that one of my brothers and I got new bikes. I didn’t know how to ride but my brother taught me that day, so every day we rode bikes. Junior high/high school years, it was all about roller skating at the Pontotoc Roll-A-Rena (can’t remember if that was the name way back then or not). In high school, my best friend and I took pictures for the school newspaper and yearbook annual.

Brown: Where did you go to school?

Carter: I graduated from North Pontotoc Attendance Center, home of the Mighty Mighty Vikings, class of ’79. I pursued my degree at Ole Miss while working at the University. Walt Shinault talked me into taking my first class. We took a computer science class together – we had a different program due every week. We had no clue what we were doing but we had fun and learned a lot. So that was the start of my working on my degree. Ten years later, I received my Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management.

Brown: What were you really into when you were a kid?

Carter: I liked riding my bike and playing outside. We lived in the country and back then you could ride your bike, play in the woods, stay out until dark and not worry about bad things happening. Most of the people that lived around us at that time were relatives or you called them Aunt or Uncle because they were older and they had known our family forever.

Brown: What always cheers you up when you think about it?

Carter: Happy music, friends, funny stories. I have some crazy friends, so I have lots of funny stories.

Brown: Tell us how/when your Ole Miss “story” began? Who hired you? How long did you work at Ole Miss?

Carter: About two weeks after graduating from high school, I started my career at Ole Miss in graduate admissions. I didn’t have a clue what a “grad” student was at the time!
I didn’t know if I wanted to go to college, or if I could afford to go to college. The only thing I knew was that I needed a job and I thought I would like to work in an office but I didn’t really have a clue. A friend, Nellie Robbins, (cousin by marriage) suggested that I go to Ole Miss and apply for a job. I was like “Right!” I did not even know where to go to apply but she said she would go with me. She had worked at the University several years back for Dr. Ken Wooten, Dean of Admissions and Registrar.

Back then, you could put in an application, take a typing test, and go for interviews all in the same day. I went on three interviews that day. One was with Dr. Mamie B. Franks, the Registrar. She said she would make a decision that night and if you don’t hear from me you know I offered the job to someone else. At that time you had to sit by the phone since there were no cell phones.

While Nellie and I were eating lunch, I remembered that I would not be home that night until late because I was helping with a bridal shower. I asked Nellie, “What am I going to do, I really want that job.” She said, “We will just go back by the Lyceum and you can ask Dr. Franks if she is going to call to please wait until after 9:00 p.m.” I said, “No, I am not going back to that office and ask her that.” Nellie assured me that Dr. Franks would not mind. So I got up enough courage to walk back into the office and Dr. Franks said, “Oh I have already made up my mind. The job is yours if you want it. Can you start tomorrow?” I accepted the job, but I wasn’t even sure I knew how to get back to the Lyceum!

After lunch on my first day, David Ross, associate registrar, came by and said, “So you came back.” Everyone laughed but I didn’t get the joke. They later explained that someone else had been hired, had worked until noon, left, and called back to say she would not be back. So, Dr. Franks was desperate when she hired me. I am sure she had already mailed out the rejection letters to all the other candidates. Seems my new job tasks were really, really behind by about three months. Dr. Franks basically took over doing graduate admissions and I just did whatever she told me. We both worked until around 7 or 8 p.m. every night. She would tell me to go home and she would still be there working. She would get stuff in some type of order of what needed to be done and I would just do what she told me. I basically followed her around like a puppy dog for three months, but I did learn a lot during that time.

After staying in graduate admissions for about five or six years, I thought it time for a new challenge. I applied for the position of secretary to the Director of the Computer Center, Dr. Jim Shankle. It took forever to hear back from him! The job was still posted but I didn’t hear anything for days. I finally found out he had been out of town. After moving to the Computer Center, I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life—I didn’t know how to do anything! But after about a month, it all started coming together and it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made.

I started getting interested in training, so when the University implemented the new voicemail system, I was the trainer. Many thanks to Dr. Shankle and Buster Clark!

Then as the University implemented a new data management system, Systems, Applications, and Products (SAP), I wanted to be involved with the training and Buster Hale gave me what I asked for—a job as the SAP Training Coordinator. There were some long hours getting ready to implement SAP Campus Management. So be careful what you ask for… just kidding! I loved doing the SAP training. I had gotten to the 25-year mark in my career, and I had always promised myself I would at least look at other opportunities.

Brown: You have a second career since retiring from Ole Miss. Please tell us about that. What are your responsibilities and day-to-day routine?

Carter: The Credit Union job just fell into my lap. You have heard the old saying, being at the right place at the right time—that is what happened, and it was perfect for me! I could retire without leaving the University. When I took the branch manager’s job at Mississippi Federal Credit Union (MSFCU), it was in a small office in the Ole Miss Student Union.

Carter at Wal-Mart ringing for the Salvation Army kettle.

After I had worked for MSFCU for a couple of years or so, the decision was made that we really couldn’t grow like we wanted to grow without more space. So our president and board started looking for an off-campus location. The old Buffalo Café restaurant was available and it was right off campus. Now that the University has purchased the old mall (Jackson Avenue Center), we have the University on both sides of us.

We are looking forward to moving back into the Student Union as soon as the renovation is finished. That branch location has been missed by the faculty/staff/who could walk and take care of their banking business.

Brown: You are the only “Onice” I’ve known. Tell us about your name. Is it a family name?

Carter: I get asked that all of the time: where did you get your name? It was my Mother’s name, but she went by her middle name, Erlene, so a lot of people did not realize I was named after her. But on her birth certificate, it was spelled Onis and they selected to spell it Onice on my birth certificate. I tell people I am On-Ice or O-Nice, depending on my mood.

Yes, I have met others with my name—not often but it has happened. I remember one time being in a restroom and a friend called my name (you know as girls you can’t go to the restroom by yourself) and this lady in the restroom said, “What did they call you?” And then she said, “That is my name and I have never met anyone with my name.”

A guy I worked with at the Computer Center, David Wilson, had an aunt named Onice, so he never thought it was a weird name—he had heard it all his life. I had a first cousin and her mother in-law’s name was Onice (not sure how she spelled her name). Another cousin was having a Mary Kay party and we were both at the party. The Mary Kay Rep knew me and she heard someone say “Onice” and the other Onice answered and she said, “Wait!!! Is your name Onice too?” She turned and looked at me and said, “I thought you were the only one in the world and now I am in a room with two Onices!”

Onice (middle, back) having fun with co-workers at the Ole Miss Credit Union.

Brown: Fill in this blank: If I could snap my fingers and acquire an experience or talent, it would be . . .

Carter: I would like to be able to think of a song and just sing it.

Brown: Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and why is it your favorite?

Carter: “Attitude is everything!” Because it is so true.

You can turn anything around depending on your attitude, how you look at the situation. Life is 10% of what you make it and 90% of how you take it.

Now that is not saying, I always have the best attitude – but it helps so much when I remind myself – change your attitude.

A bad attitude is like a flat tire, if you don’t change it, you’ll never go anywhere.

Onice (third from back right) said she enjoys her time spent at the Ole Miss Credit Union.

Brown: Who had the biggest impact on the person you have become?

Carter: Several people impacted my life. My mother certainly impacted my life. She always told me to make up my own mind about people, that it was OK to listen to what people said but not to believe everything that was said. This lesson has helped in many situations. There are some friends who impacted my life. I would not have them if I had listened to others. Some of the classes that I took (under great instructors), I would have missed out. I might not have taken my first real job under Dr. Franks.

My first real boss, Mamie Franks, impacted my life. A lot of people thought Dr. Franks was hard to work for but she was good to me. I found that if you did your job there were no issues. She gave me my first real job and she taught me so much. I will never forget her telling me to answer a question with a question. I looked at her and said I don’t understand. She said if someone asks you for a catalog, you should ask “undergraduate, graduate, or law?” I then understood exactly what she meant.

Walt Shinault certainly impacted my life. He talked me into taking my first class at Ole Miss and 10 years later I was an Ole Miss graduate. He is an inspiration.

Onice pictured with Walt Shinault and Jeff Covington.

Dr. Jim Shankle gave me so many opportunities to grow as an employee and allowed me to take classes to finish my degree.

Buster Hale allowed me to move into the SAP Training Coordinator position while working at IT. The list could go on and on. I feel very fortunate to have had these influential people in my life.

Brown: What do you do to get rid of stress?

Carter: Walking with friends. Not sure if it is the walking or the talking. While working at the Computer Center (IT), Brenda Wimberly, Jacque Trimm, and sometimes Mary Harrington would walk after work—that was so much fun. There are so many stories, but I guess I need to say “What happens on the walks, stays on the walks.”

Shopping also works!

Brown: What do you do to improve your mood when you are in a bad mood?

Carter: It depends. Sometimes listening to music, watching a sitcom, talking with friends, and, of course, shopping usually helps.

Brown: What’s your favorite way to waste time?

Carter: I waste too much time watching TV or movies but this is my way to relax before going to sleep at night.

Brown: Do you have any hobbies?

Carter: Ask anyone that knows me and they would say eating and shopping! But I also like to attend Ole Miss sporting events.

I love to bargain shop. When I walk into a store, I go straight to the clearance racks.

Brown: What would be your perfect weekend?

Carter: Chores all done and getting to spend the day loafing. And of course loafing includes shopping and eating!

Brown: What is your guilty pleasure?

Carter: Watching Survivor. This started by walking with Brenda Wimberly and Jacque Trimm. We were walking and I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. So I had to go home and watch Survivor so I could join in on the conversation. Soon it became a Thursday Night Event. Two of my nephews were also really into Survivor, so it became a pizza and hot wings Thursday night party. They would be at my house as soon as I walked in the door after work. Now they are all grown and no time for Survivor.

Brown: What story do you want people to tell about you? What impact will you leave behind?

Carter: I would like people to remember me as being a friend and a person of my word.

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