ISE Loses Some of its “Heart”

The ISE Department encountered one of those bittersweet moments when the business manager, Debbie Allgood-Staton, announced her retirement this spring. The “sweet” is that after more than 25 years of working at the University — 18 of those in the ISE Department — Allgood-Staton has earned the luxury of leaving the rat race behind to spend her days spoiling her grandchildren and working in her garden. The “bitter” is that ISE has lost someone who was a big part of the Department’s “heart.” Don’t believe it? Just ask ISE department head, Julie Swann. “Sometimes I call Debbie the ‘heart’ of ISE since her presence has affected so many personally, in the Department and across the University.”

Allgood-Staton began working for NC State in the College of Engineering. When the ISE business officer position opened up, professor Rusty King encouraged her to apply as it would be a promotion. “I am very thankful that Rusty encouraged me to apply, and Dr. Wilson hired me,” shared Allgood-Staton. “It gave me the opportunity to grow with the Department through all the changes over the past 18 years.” She would not only get the opportunity to work closely with Jim Wilson (department head 1999 – 2007) but Paul Cohen (2007 – 2017) and Julie Swann (2017 – present). “I have learned so much from them and thank them for everything they have done,” said Allgood-Staton. 

Along with the transitions in leadership, she has experienced a transformation in the Department. When Allgood-Station joined ISE, there were not as many female students, international students and female faculty members. She believed a significant change came to the ISE’s diversity in 2005 when alumnus Ed Fitts made an extremely generous donation to the Department. Thanks to Fitts’s gift, the Department was able to award more scholarships, fellowships, endowments and study abroad programs that supported students and research. “We hired many outstanding new faculty members and were able to bring in the best of the best students,” recalled Allgood-Staton. His gift affected all aspects of the Department. The size of the graduate program doubled, and the research budget quintupled.

This transformation not only helped grow the size of the Department but its reputation as well. “We started attending three national conferences when the department name changed (Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering),” explained Allgood-Staton. “It has made a remarkable difference in getting our name recognized and helping recruit students.” It is these students that she truly treasures.

Over the years, Allgood-Staton had the opportunity to travel to many conferences to promote the Department and recruit students. “I have loved working with each and every one of them,” she confessed. “I got to know so many students not only as a student but also on a personal level,” she said. “I still stay in touch with many of them through social media. It has been the most rewarding part of my job. I’ve been through 35 graduations and had the opportunity to get to know so many of them.”

Allgood-Staton’s hard work and commitment to the Department have become a part of its fabric. “Her leadership has created a culture that values collaboration and teamwork and helps individuals and the ISE community be the best it can be,” stated Swann. “ISE will treasure the legacy she has helped build.”

The pandemic brought extraordinary pressures to business officers across the University in managing teams virtually, through dynamically changing environments and with a great deal of uncertainty. “Debbie’s leadership was essential during this challenging time,” explained Swann.

In her well-earned retirement, Allgood-Staton plans to stay busy. “I will spend more time with my grandchildren, do more fishing, gardening, maybe working part-time,” she admitted. “I plan to volunteer at my daughter’s non-profit organization. Also, just relax and enjoy life.”

Allgood-Staton wanted to share some parting words to let everyone know just how special they are and what they meant to her. “Thanks to everyone I have worked with over the past 25 years in the College and the Department,” she shared. “To all the team, you are amazing. Each of you has a special place in my heart. You are a dream team, and I am so thankful for the friendships built over the years. Keep working together and always bringing out the best face for ISE! I have had a wonderful experience and wish you all the best in the future.”

She had some kind words for the new business officer as well. “Be a good listener,” Allgood-Staton said. “Get to know everyone in the Department personally and professionally. Have a close working relationship with the department head. Keep the team motivated and work closely with all of them.” In other words, be the new “heart” of the Department.

Bernhard Honors Allgood-Staton

ISE Professor Emeritus Richard Bernhard has been a part of the ISE faculty since 1969 and is one of a small group of people who were here when Debbie Allgood-Staton arrived 18 years ago. He was so impressed by her dedication and caring that when he learned she would be retiring, he gave a $5k gift to the ISE Enhancement Fund to celebrate Debbie’s outstanding career as a business officer. “Debbie is a real treasure,” shared Bernhard. “Over the years, she was always warm and friendly and was gracious with her time, particularly whenever I was upset about something. She’s a very loving, caring person! HOORAY for Debbie!”