Publication Date: January 10, 2023

On January 1, 2023, VTIPG’s Fiscal Manager Karen Boone officially retired after having worked at the Institute for more than 16 years. She had been with the Institute since its founding in 2006, and prior to that had worked with Associate Director Mary Beth Dunkenberger at the Institute for Policy and Outreach (IPO) at Virginia Tech.

Statement by Max Stephenson, VTIPG Director

"It is exceptionally difficult to say farewell to Karen, who has been a part of the Institute since its founding. In many ways, she has come to personify the values we hold dear at IPG. She has always pitched in to address needs as they arose, irrespective of whether those nominally fell within her position description, she consistently found ways to accomplish whatever needed to be done, notwithstanding the complexity of those challenges and she managed all of this with consummate professionalism, empathy and an attentive eye to the needs of those we serve. For several years, for example, the Institute managed a grant program aimed at assisting vocational reentry for those recovering from addiction and of the many issues that confront that population, one that is continuously difficult and bedeviling is helping those individuals obtain needed dental care. Karen was tireless in her efforts to obtain such services for those with whom we were working and was personally able to organize such arrangements with local practitioners. And her personal dedication and made a material difference in the health of many. I could cite many other examples, but all would point to her cheerful and compassionate dedication and professioanlism. You do not say goodbye to such a colleague.  Rather, you wish them well and hope to see them again soon, for they have left an indelible mark."

Statement by Mary Beth Dunkenberger, VTIPG Associate Director

"Karen has been a dedicated and talented member of the IPG team during the past two decades, and while we celebrate her move to new adventures, she will be greatly missed. In addition to her fiscal management abilities, Karen’s sense of calm and quick rise to laughter carried us through many a day.   Due to her knack for taking care of matters and providing guidance to all around her, Karen was often referred to as “Mama Boone,” even by those more senior in age.  This even included sometimes being reprimanded in the way only a mother can, including the infamous “ I put you in the payroll system, and I can take you out!”   When things are at their worst, Karen can be counted on to be at her best. For instance, on that horrible morning here in April 2007, I was in a meeting with another colleague at a coffee shop adjacent to campus when I got a call from Karen asking where we were, followed by “I am on my way.”  Within minutes Karen  pulled her SUV up to the door and ordered us to get in, explaining the tragedy unfolding at Norris Hall. We spent the balance of the day and the next 15 years supporting one another in good times and bad, in our special IPG family.   Thank you, Karen, for everything, and if you do go looking for a part-time job, please come see us!" 

In a conversation with Billy Parvatam, IPG Communications Coordinator, Karen took some time to reflect on her career at the Institute.

BP: How did this opportunity to work at IPG come about?

KB: I joined Virginia Tech as an employee in the Biology Department in 1998. After a few years at the university, I realized I wanted more of a challenge and went on the job hunt for other positions. I received a phone call from IPO asking if I would like to come in for an interview, which was funny because I didn’t even remember applying for the position. I remember when I came over for the interview how kind and nice everybody was, and that was the start of it. It’s the people and the type of work that goes on here that has kept me here. Eventually, Mary Beth Dunkenberger and I worked with Max Stephenson and David Moore to create IPG.

BP: What have been the biggest initiatives you’ve worked on with IPG over the years?

KB: The one that I was hired to do had to do with Child and Family Services. That one grant was demanding because there were around 7 people hired for it, so I had to take care of all their needs, ordering payroll, and whatever was needed. From there, the Institute just kept growing in recognition and Mary Beth kept getting more grants.

BP: What have been the biggest changes that have happened over the years, and your role in implementing those changes?

KB: The one that stands out the most is when as a department we had to switch academic homes. We were with what was then the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS), then we moved to Outreach and International Affairs (OIA) while maintaining ties to CAUS, then back to CAUS, and now we’re in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (CLAHS).

The scope of my role always depended on our academic home. Usually it involved filling out paperwork and understanding who had authorization to sign off on various initiatives. Every time we moved, I had to get used to knowing who we were answering to and making sure we were doing things the way our home college wanted it to be done.

BP: What are your fondest memories working at IPG?

KB: My fondest memories have been working with all the different people who have come and gone. The graduate students stand out. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting these bright, wonderful, young people. It’s been hard to see them go. You get used to them and you get fond of them and then they’re off making an impact in the world. In addition, the employees here have made this place one where I wanted to stay and retire from.

BP: In particular, you have worked with Director Max Stephenson and Associate Director Mary Beth Dunkenberger for years. What have those relationships been like?

KB: You know all about them. You get to know their families and watch their kids grow up. It has also been neat to see how they’ve grown professionally, as well as the awards and the recognition that they have received. That’s always been so nice, to see them get the recognition that they so deserve for all the hard work that they’ve done.

BP: What drew you to stay at IPG all these years?

KB: Management and how supportive they are of staff. The way that they treat their employees and their philosophy on working. They’re hard workers, but they are also there for you professionally and personally whenever you need them. Everyone at the Institute works so hard and they’re dedicated to whatever they’re working on, such as Mary Beth with her grants and Max with his students. Anybody who is involved with them flourishes.

BP: What will you miss the most?

KB: I’ve already started feeling weird about the fact that I won’t be here. It will seem strange that no one will need me [laughs]. But I will miss everyone here. I will miss all the co-workers who have become my friends.

BP: What are you going to do next?

KB: My husband (James) and I are going to say goodbye to our children and, along with our dogs and my mother-in-law, we are going to head to Florida where it's warm. We will stay down there for 4-5 months until it gets warmer up here. I have plans to do landscaping. The house that we have needs a lot of landscaping and that is one of my passions, getting in the sand as they say. I’ve thought about refurbishing furniture. I might even start jogging, but I don’t know about that one [laughs]. Mainly I’m looking forward to spending time with my husband and mother-in law, and finding things for us to do. I might even start taking a metal detector on the beach to get out there and give an opportunity for the dogs to run out too. We’re also going fishing, and will be upgrading our boat to enjoy ourselves. We’ll see how long it takes before I get bored. Then I might have to find a part time job that keeps me busy.

BP: What does the Blacksburg and the New River Valley region mean to you?

KB: I was born and raised in Dublin so this is home. This will always be home. I have all my family and friends here. When the weather is warm, we will come back home. And when winter comes again, we will go back to Florida. We’re going to be snowbirds for the foreseeable future.

BP: Are there any last thoughts you wanted to add about your time at IPG?

KB: It doesn’t feel real that I'm retiring, but I just wish everyone here a smooth transition and know that I will be thinking of them (in the warm weather). Know that Mama Boone is only about 9 hours away!