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Longtime Assistant Dean Reflects on 41 Years at ODU

by Erica Howell

After over four decades of service, Debbie Bauman, assistant dean of the College of Health Sciences, is preparing to bid farewell to Old Dominion University (ODU) with her retirement on June 9.

Bauman's connection to ODU began in 1976 when she began her undergraduate studies in the dental hygiene program. Following her four years as an undergraduate, she spent an additional two years as a teaching assistant in the master's degree program before beginning her distinguished career at ODU. Bauman dedicated 26 years to molding the minds of students as a faculty member, three years as the chair of the School of Dental Hygiene, and a further 15 years as the assistant dean.

Recalling the early days, Bauman reminisced about the university's transformation. "When I toured ODU, Kaufman Mall didn't have any trees," she said, striking a visual of the remarkable growth and progress that ODU has witnessed during her tenure.

When asked about her favorite aspect of ODU, Bauman said, "I love the values in the new strategic plan because they're so real and so ODU," she shared. Bauman also highlighted the nurturing environment at the institution, describing ODU as an "encouraging place" that allowed individuals to make mistakes while providing ample opportunities for professional growth.

Bauman's proudest achievement at ODU lies in the school of dental hygiene. She spoke fondly of the program's consistent standard of excellence, which it has maintained throughout the years. Additionally, Bauman expressed pride in ODU's R1 status, recognizing the university's relentless efforts in achieving this esteemed research classification. "ODU has worked so hard for so long," she said.

As Bauman embarks on her well-deserved retirement, she looks forward to a period of rest and rejuvenation. When asked what she's most looking forward to in retirement, she exclaimed, "Doing nothing!" with a chuckle. Prioritizing her health, Bauman plans to relish in a lengthy retirement.

Despite bidding adieu to her formal role, Bauman intends to maintain her connection to ODU. She eagerly awaits football games and is open to volunteering her time. She plans to retain her membership at the student recreation center and eagerly looks forward to visiting the new health sciences building upon its completion.

When asked about what she will miss the most, Bauman's emotions surfaced as she expressed her fondness for witnessing the return of students each fall. "They're so excited and ready to go," she said, with a mix of joy and nostalgia.

Bauman's philanthropic endeavors were inspired by her grandfather, who instilled in her the value of giving back. Following in his footsteps, Bauman initiated a scholarship at ODU, recognizing the pivotal role the university played in shaping her life. "ODU has been my life since I was 18," she said. While the scholarship is yet to be endowed, she hopes to one day meet a student who benefits from her scholarship.

Bauman concluded with a heartfelt statement: "No goodbyes," she asserted, emphasizing the enduring bond she shares with ODU.

Bonnie Van Lunen, PhD, dean of the College of Health Sciences reflected on Bauman's remarkable contributions, as well as their friendship, and urged her to carry the essence of ODU with her. "Carry with you what it felt like to be surrounded by a diverse group of students who were as passionate as they were talented," Van Lunen said. "Carry with you the feeling of being a Monarch. No one knows the depth of that more than you."

Debbie Bauman's remarkable tenure at ODU stands as a testament to her unwavering dedication, passion, and love for the institution. As she embarks on her retirement journey, Bauman leaves behind a legacy that will undoubtedly inspire generations to come.

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