Bennye Alligood started working at Santa Fe College as a 17-year-old student, just two years after the college was first established in 1965.
Her early part-time job in audio-visual equipment delivery launched her 35-year career at Santa Fe, where she retired last week as associate vice president for educational centers, having enrolled about 24,000 students, according to a press release.
A send-off party with Santa Fe staff Friday marked the end of Alligood’s service.
Described by those who worked with her as joyful and a natural leader, Alligood was “friendly and extraordinarily articulate about the mission of the college” and “made everyone feel welcomed and valued,” said Edward Bonahue, the college’s academic affairs provost.
At the retirement party, Bonahue said Alligood “has brought memory of what the college has been and also an inspiring vision of what the college should be and will continue to be.”
Following a 10-year hiatus after moving with her husband to Georgia, Alligood returned to the college and was named the administrative assistant to former academic affairs vice president Robert Myers, according to the release.
“Bennye represents the very best of what Santa Fe is, was and sure will ever be,” said Myers.
Working at Santa Fe “was never a job for Bennye, it was a calling,” he said.
Cheryl Farrell said taking care of people was in Alligood’s nature. The executive assistant for the college’s assessment, research, and technology department worked with Alligood for five years.
“She’s very genuine. She’s very open,” Farrell said. “She definitely has an open door policy. She was never too busy for anyone.”
Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser said he valued Alligood during their time as colleagues.
“Every major decision that I’ve made for this college for the last 12 years, she has been consulted,” he said.
When asked if she was sad about leaving Santa Fe, Alligood said, “More than you can imagine. It’s been a great part of my life. I’ve been here almost from the beginning.”
When Alligood started her more than three-decade career, she said Santa Fe was housed just seven blocks from UF’s campus.
“Everybody said, ‘Why do you want to have a college right next to the University of Florida? It just won’t even be successful,’” she said.
Nearly 50 years later, Santa Fe is ranked by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 10 community colleges nationwide.
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 10/13/2014]