Faculty and Staff

The first face you see: Staff member finds the right fit

A woman in a striped shirt.
Linda Parker is the receptionist at UNC Adams School of Dentistry's Tarrson Hall, one of many positions she's held during her 30-plus years at ASOD.

For the past 38 years, Linda Parker has been a cheerful fixture at UNC Adams School of Dentistry. Since arriving in 1986, she has worn many hats and worked in different departments — the dispensary, the records office, the Dean’s Suite, dental research and two front desks, including her current position at the Tarrson Hall reception desk, which is far and away her favorite.

“I want to see what people are wearing!” she laughs.

Linda Parker has worked at ASOD for 38 yearas in different roles.

Personal relationships

In all seriousness, Parker said each position at ASOD brought something different to the table, but the thing she craved most was the personal interactions.

“I think with every one of those positions it was either patient-facing or some type of interaction where I’m with the public — visitors, patients, students, faculty — and it was the engagement that was a good fit for me. In anything I pursued it was something that had that component.”

Parker has seen a lot during her time at UNC, and her historical knowledge is something she prides herself on. She is able to offer insights and suggestions on what she’s experienced during the past 38 years and how that could apply to current situations and interactions. She stays because of the people here.

“The engagement with staff and every component of this community makes me stay here,” she said. “That engagement is what I thrive on.”

Smiling through it all

Parker keeps a past job in mind when faced with difficulties and bad days and tries to wear a smile through the hardships, something she learned while working at a restaurant.

“[The manager] told me ‘I don’t care what happened to you, when you cross that threshold, this is what I want to see, you smiling.’ It’s stuck with me. He’d given me his time, and I owe you mine.”

Her smile and friendly exchanges definitely set her apart, and Parker said her coworkers would describe her as silly, fun, serious, outgoing, personable and knowledgeable — all traits that are evident when speaking with her.

Interactions lead to engagement

Parker enjoys spending time with Caleb and Carson when they come to work with their mom.

Parker likes to look back on favorite memories from her time at ASOD, and some are even from the not-so-distant past. She said she looks forward to spending time with two children whose parent is a current faculty member, typically a highlight of her week. She also loves interacting with pediatric patients and tries to be on hand for school events, like Give Kids a Smile.

“The kids are my favorite part. I love the students, but pediatric patients are the most fun,” she said. “Any time there’s an event, I try to engage with the kids. My favorite thing to say is ‘I am, too!’ when I ask ‘how old are you?’ I love watching them try to figure out why I’m a mighty big four.”

She also treasures memories that were happy accidents, such as meeting the owner of the Carolina Panthers during a routine interaction with a visitor.

Parker loves spending time with her granddaughter Kaylee, who shares her love of sparkly outfits.

“I was telling him about a conversation I had with my son Tyler. ‘I said I don’t understand football.’ Tyler said ‘Mother, it’s too late in the season to learn football.’ I shared that with him, and he said ‘You don’t know this, but I part own the Panthers.’ He gave me his business card, and said ‘You let me know when you want to learn football.’ That was pretty cool. You never know who’s on the other side of that counter.”

For her family

And while Parker lifts spirits at work, she also shines brightly for her family, including husband Eric, son Tyler and granddaughter Kaylee. Parker and Kaylee even share the same birthday and the same love of sparkly outfits. “She’s quite the fashionista!”

And when she’s not at home or work, she has her sights set on traveling to the West Coast or Florida, or somewhere out of the country, like Germany, Mexico or Sweden. “That destination remains to be seen, but I’d like to do more international travel,” she said.