“I keep telling my dad that I push paper for a living,” said Debbie Konynenbelt, administrative assistant to Provost and Chief Academic Officer E. Randolph Richards. “And I think, I’m pretty good at it,” she laughed.
And she is, but that’s not the only reason why she’s been recognized as Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Employee of the Year. Those who know her, say she is the most helpful, kindest and humblest person they know.
She started at PBA in January 2007. Prior to that she was working part time at Christ Fellowship Church. One of their choir members was a PBA employee and knew that she had children approaching college age. So, the woman asked her: “Have you ever considered working at PBA? There’s a job opening in my office that I think would be perfect for you.” Konynenbelt welcomed the opportunity and continued to pursue it, as she saw it as God’s provision for her family.
A Lake Worth, Florida native, Konynenbelt was born at Good Samaritan Hospital and has lived on the same street since she was four-years-old. After high school, she went away to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. After her husband Kevin finished school, they moved back to Lake Worth, where they found a house on the same street where her parents lived. And bonus: they also got instant baby-sitters!
After 12 years of working at PBA, Debbie has found another instant family support system. “This year, particularly, has been such a blessing to have this fellowship of community,” she said. “The outpouring of love that my family received from PBA when my mom got sick and passed away just recently has been incredible.”
Minutes before the announcement was made about the Employer of the Year, Konynenbelt was still trying to get her head back in the game. And then she heard Tyler Mayo, employee relations coordinator, read a comment from one of her nominators. “This person has helped the university through the transitions of three provosts and the work from her end has continued seamlessly, which has boosted the confidence for those who work so closely with that office. She remains one of the kindest, most approachable and helpful people on campus. She is always ready to lend a helping hand.”
And then she thought, “Oh, my goodness, I think he’s talking about me!”
And as her name was called, her first thought was, “I wish I could share this moment with my mom.” As Konynenbelt tells it, her mother was extremely happy that she had this role at PBA and that her grandchildren were getting such a great education here as well.
“I always try to do my very best. And it’s normal that we always hope that one day we would be recognized for our work, but that isn’t the primary reason we give our best,” she said. “Doing your best honors God and it motivates people,” Christ Fellowship Pastor Tom Mullins’ discerning words have stuck with her.
This year, Konynenbelt has experienced what she calls, the culmination of the high of the highest and low of the lowest. In May, she and her husband, Kevin, celebrated their 30-year anniversary, at which time, her brother presented them with a trip to Europe. Two months before, her mom’s mother passed away at 105-years old, and five months later, her mom did, too.
Like most of us, she likes to focus on the joyous occasions, like the fact that two of her three kids have graduated from PBA. Her eldest daughter, Katherine, graduated in 2011 with a degree in English. Her son Michael ’15, graduated with a dual degree in math and computer science, and her youngest, Megan, is graduating this December with a degree in English.
“I promise I didn’t push them!” Konynenbelt laughed, noting that both her daughters have followed her footsteps. “I think it’s interesting that my three kids were homeschooled, and that PBA was the first school they graduated from.”
“I love our mission,” she concluded as she reflected on the many reasons she loves PBA. “I’ve always felt that you need a good education in order to make a successful life for yourself, and I love that we do that by putting Christ at the heart of what we do.”