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Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Carla Daily Bennett

The latest interview in the Ole Miss Retirees features Carla Daily Bennett. The organization’s mission is to enable 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.

Carla Bennett has lots of Southern charm and you can tell that just by her smile alone. She’s got a sunny personality and a positive attitude. That’s part of what made her a valuable asset in the work place. Did I mention modest? Just ask her and she will tell you she’s the smartest of her siblings!  

Brown: Where were you born and raised? Describe your hometown and what was special about it.  

Bennett: I was born at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. When I was two weeks old, my dad was discharged and we made the trip from Boston to Tishomingo, Mississippi, during the first week of August, 1968. My dad said there was no A/C in the car and we only stopped for food and gas. He was ready to be home.

My hometown is Tishomingo, which is in the very northeast corner of the state. Our town is a typical southern one. Everyone knows everyone. Family and God rank as most important, and people work hard for a living. It’s famous for the beautiful Tishomingo State Park and there are many things still the same as my childhood in that corner of the world and that feels so wonderful when I visit. 

Brown: Please talk about your childhood.  

Bennett: I grew up in a fun-loving family with many aunts and uncles. Cousins were my first friends. As a child I was fortunate to be cared for by great-grandparents and grandparents while my parents worked. I remember summers outdoors riding my bike and playing house with a pretend family of four children. Whew! That did not become reality! My family had fun filled with lots of laughter, singing, and love. 

Brown: Tell us about your parents and siblings.

Bennett: Kary and Sue Daily were/are my parents. Dad worked at Counce, Tennessee, at the paper mill as a pipe fitter and welder until retirement. He battled many health issues as a result of diabetes and passed in March 2011. My Mom is still working today in the meat department of Sunflower grocery, where she’s been employed for 43 years. Previously she worked for McRae Grocery, and I remember the store well. The best part was the candy aisle – chocolate footballs in a small brown paper poke was a treat!

I am the oldest, smartest and favorite child of three children. My brother, Mark Daily, is five years younger than me. He is currently the pastor of Highland Baptist Church and works for the Tishomingo County Electric Association, and is married to Kim. They have two children, Jon-Mark and Madison.  

My baby sister, Katrina Ford, is an RN at the Magnolia Regional Center in Corinth. She’s married to John, with two handsome boys, Eli and Luke. She plays piano at Highland Baptist Church. 

Each year on my birthday, Mark calls to tell me how old I am, to which I reply, “I may be older, but you will never be smarter than me.”  Katrina, I think, is just happy to be 10 years younger than me. We always seem to have a great time and lots of fun.

Brown: What is your favorite childhood memory?  

Bennett: Singing. I grew up on a piano stool. Generations of family sang as quartets, and family reunions consisted of food, fellowship and singing. When we were in the car, we sang and harmonized. When we were cleaning dishes after supper, we sang and harmonized. I can see it so clearly. Dad would call us into a circle in the middle of the kitchen and with the dish towel thrown over his shoulder he would begin a song. We all fell into our parts, and should I be “off”, he would stop and say “Charlie, you are missin’ it right here”. He called me Charlie. No one calls me Charlie but my Dad. When he passed, the nickname retired.

Brown: Where did you go to school? 

Bennett: I went to Tishomingo School from first through twelfth grade. Then, I attended Northeast Mississippi Community College. 

Brown: What subject was hardest for you in school?

Bennett: GEOMETRY – mercy! First (and last) D ever in 10th grade. I just could not see the obtuse angle. My dad being a pipe fitter could not understand this. It was natural to him but not to me. I did pass with an A.

Brown: How did you respond when asked as a child what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Bennett: I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote a lot during my high school years, mostly poetry.

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

Bennett: Dolls. Baby dolls. Not a Barbie fan. But I was always a mom. Lots of imaginary scenarios – friends, family, children, work – trees were my home; bike was my car; mud pies were our food. 

Brown: What was your very first job, perhaps as a teen? What were your responsibilities and what was your pay?

Bennett: My first job was clerk at Sunflower Grocery when I was 16 years old. I was responsible for checking out customers and bagging their groceries. My pay was minimum wage at $3.35 per hour

Brown: Talk about your high school experience. What clubs/activities did you participate in?

Bennett: I was a member and officer of the Beta Club. I played trumpet in concert band and was a member of the flag Corp in the marching band. Our band was about 20 people total. I was on the yearbook staff. The Class of 1986 was the largest class (63 seniors) to graduate from Tishomingo High School. We had hallway lockers with pad locks, typing class was taught on a manual typewriter, the yearbook was all laid out by hand, with no technology. I was required to earn 16 credits to graduate high school. I was a good student, but I had much rather been at home and always hated to see summer end.

Brown: Please talk about your career path and your journey to Ole Miss.  

Bennett: In 1988, I graduated from Northeast Mississippi Community College with an A.A. degree in Medical Assisting. I thought I would become a member of a clinical setting; however, upon moving to Oxford, I applied for a position at Ole Miss. The plan was to be in Oxford for only one year. It is 2021 and I am still here. 

My first position was Senior Clerk Typist for the Department of Pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy. Dr. Marvin Wilson was the Chair and offered the position at a starting salary of $7700 a year and I took it! I worked with Mrs. Edith Pritchard, senior secretary, until her retirement and I was then promoted to that position. Later I became the administrative assistant to the associate dean of the School of Pharmacy.

Brown: Tell us about your Ole Miss story.

Bennett:  In 1988, I was hired by Dr. Marvin Wilson, Chair, as Senior Clerk Typist, Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy.  After Mrs. Edith Pritchard retired in 1990, I was promoted to the position of Senior Secretary. 

In 1994 I accepted the position of administrative assistant to Dr. Wilson, associate dean for the School of Pharmacy. I continued in that position until 2016, when Rachel Bost hired me as a procurement assistant. I held that position until I retired in 2018 with 30 years of service.

Brown: What were some of your responsibilities?

Bennett: While in the School of Pharmacy, each position served the students of Ole Miss. In the Department of Pharmacology, graduate students were the first to “break me in.”  I typed many exams for the seven professors of the department as well as grant proposals. Senior secretary responsibilities included budget, travel, office supplies, etc. everyday efficiency of the office. As administrative assistant, I worked in pharmacy admissions. Our goal was recruitment of outstanding high school seniors for the Early Entry Program as well as recruiting students from community colleges and other institutions after completion of their pre-pharmacy coursework. Responsibilities included class schedules, GPA calculations, scholarship awards and entering student records data into the in-house software program that tracked students from application to the program B.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences through completion of the Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Brown: Describe your most memorable days at work.  

Bennett: The most memorable and special days were graduation ceremonies and seeing students who had became friends complete the program and graduate. I would stand and have them march two by two to “Pomp and Circumstance” for the procession. Many times I cried at the excitement for them, but I hated to see them leave. It was always bittersweet. 

Brown: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Bennett: I am most proud of the work friendships throughout the years. In the Office of Academic Affairs, the records coordinators and I, along with Dr. Wilson, worked really well together. We often referred to our successful endeavors as a well-oiled wheel. It was always an accomplishment when we made it through another admission cycle or White Coat Ceremony or awards day program, or graduation ceremonies.

Brown: What are the most useful skills you have?  

Bennett: Communication is the skill most useful. Being the first good impression for a prospective student, parent, administrator, etc., was of the utmost importance. Answering questions, requesting information and even being a sounding board for those upset with any situation made the communication skill imperative. Data Entry – student data had to be entered into the program, including demographics, pre-pharmacy coursework, pharmacy course grades for GPA, assembly attendance, clubs, officer positions for the student body. Once I had a rhythm, I could knock it out pretty quickly and accurately.

Brown: What’s your creative outlet?

Bennett: I am not very creative. Creativity in art and hobbies has never been my forte. However, I have begun to enjoy gardening and since retirement, each spring and summer I add something new to list. Still not sure I have a green thumb. It has been said that if you want a plant to die, just bring it to Carla. I am trying to turn that around! 

Brown: If there was something in your past you were able to go back and do differently, what would that be?  

Bennett: Education. I would have completed a psychology degree and my career path would probably have been counseling. 

Brown: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self

Bennett: Continue your education, invest wisely, and enjoy the ride.   

Brown: What three items would you take with you to a deserted island?

Bennett: Most definitely my phone. I must talk with my mom every day; clothes; sunblock.

Brown: How did you and your husband Donnie meet?

Bennett: We met at church at a Vacation Bible School closing ceremony in June 2010. In October 2010, we were married. Together we blended wonderful children and grandchildren. Today we are the proud grandparents of 10 grands and 1 great-grand (ages 18 to 2). Watching our children parent and our grandchildren thrive is one of our greatest blessings. Together we make a family. 

Donnie and Carla

Brown: What’s the best part of your day?

Bennett: Morning when home is quiet but also late night while others are sleeping.

Brown: What makes you roll your eyes when you hear/see it?

Bennett: Drama – life is too short! The older I get the smaller my circle becomes, and I have learned to roll my eyes while I am walking away.

Brown: What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?

Bennett: Motherhood – two beautiful daughters who are thriving as adults. Makes my heart happy. GRANDCHILDREN! Enough said. Friendships – the ones that come into your life for just awhile and those who stay forever. Something is always learned. Family – parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, grands and great-grands, and cousins! Loss of my dad – it was sudden and the hardest thing to accept. There will always be events that are almost too hard because he isn’t with us anymore, but that too is life. And I am thankful for the memories of the past and the memories to come.

Carla’s girls: Cara Pollan and Cate Dennis
Mark (brother), Sue (mother), Katrina (sister), and Carla

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

Bennett: Call a friend and take a deep breath, and sometimes a nap.

Brown:  If you were trying out for a singing reality show, what song would you sing?

Bennett: I think I would duet with my sister, Katrina, but not sure of a song title.

Brown: What chore do you absolutely hate doing?

Bennett: Mopping

Brown: What are you passionate about?  

Bennett: I love to do the little things. It means so much for someone who might be sick or having a birthday to get a card. I like to listen to conversation and pick up ideas for gifts.  Gifting is one of my greatest rewards. It really is better to give than to receive!

Brown: If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

Bennett: Do not hurt my child/family. When it comes to my child, I will smile for my mug shot. Try me!

Brown: What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast?

Bennett: “Nashville.” At first, I did not like it at all and didn’t think they could act or sing, but for some reason I went back and started again. Then I could NOT stop watching. “Yellowstone” is another and I am awaiting the next season!

Brown: What’s left on your bucket list?

Bennett: Travel for sure, to Montana, Utah, Colorado, and to see the Northern Lights.

Brown: To quote Katherine Meadowcroft, cultural activist and writer, “What one leaves behind is the quality of one’s life, the summation of the choices and actions one makes in this life, our spiritual and moral values.”  What is your legacy?

Bennett: I hope my legacy is compassion and love for God and family. Cherish the moments and make memories. Don’t blink.

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. For questions or comments, email her at bbrown@olemiss.edu.

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