Staff Spotlight - Terry Reese, OESD support specialist

May 3, 2019

Terry Reese’s story is one of perseverance, resolve, and triumph. Terry recently celebrated her 20th anniversary with Yale and the road that led her to where she is today was lined with twists, turns, and obstacles. 

Terry was born in New Haven, the youngest of five children, raised by a single mother who, despite her greatest efforts, struggled to provide for her family.  At the young age of five, Terry and her older sister, who was seven at the time, were separated from their siblings when they were taken in by a family friend from their church community who Terry refers to as her “godfather.” While Terry was grateful for the opportunity to have a better life and felt blessed to be in her new home, she yearned for the mother/daughter relationship that she was lacking and greatly missed the close connection she had had with her siblings.

At the age of 17, Terry decided to leave her godfather’s home and move back in with her mother. Not long after, at just 18 years old, Terry gave birth to her first daughter, Ashley, who was diagnosed with a rare disease known as Turner syndrome. Now a single mother herself, with an ill child to care for, she found herself under immense pressure to do right by her daughter and was determined to use the life lesson’s her godfather taught her on taking care of herself, her family, and her finances to provide the best life possible for her young child. Working three jobs to support herself and Ashley, Terry recalls her daily struggle. “I caught the bus five times a day to get back and forth between my three jobs… Some days I didn’t know how I’d get through even one more day, but I somehow managed to do it. I never gave up, and I kept my faith in God. I could sometimes feel him put his arms around me and tell me it would all be okay.”

By the age of 28, she was married and had her second daughter, Aysia. Now a family of five, including her husband’s son, and living on one salary while Terry tended to the children, she realized that she needed to find employment for them to stay afloat. With that, on a whim, Terry walked through the front doors of the Yale Human Resources building and asked for an application. After passing the mandatory typing test, she was hired for a temporary personnel assistant position in Staffing, which she started the very next day. Terry thrived in her new role and was offered a permanent job just eight months later. Since then, she has held various titles, including IEP coordinator, generalist assistant, financial/administrative assistant, and Learning Center class registrar, all under the Human Resources umbrella. 

In 2010, motivated by the financial support available to her through the Yale tuition reimbursement program, Terry made the decision to obtain a college degree. For the next five years, she juggled a full-time workload, class load, and family life. During her last year of college, Terry’s faith and perseverance were tested once again when her mother and eldest daughter unexpectedly underwent emergency double bypass surgery just three months apart from one another. She now found herself acting as the primary caregiver for her daughter and mother, who never fully recovered. Terry acknowledges this period as the most challenging time in her life. “Taking care of my mom was so draining and emotional. Here I was, trying to get my life together, but needing to take care of my mother. It became both a personal and work challenge because I took it to work with me. I didn’t know how to turn it off. I would ask God, ‘Why me?’”  After taking a six-month leave of absence to care for her mother and daughter, Terry’s resilience and determination once again prevailed. She graduated from Albertus Magnus in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology. Shortly after, she took on new responsibilities at Yale as OESD support specialist, the role that she holds today. 

These days Terry is loving life and proud to say that she is truly happy personally and professionally. She credits her supportive supervisor and team members with creating an environment that fuels her passion and excitement about work and makes her happy to come to work each day. “When my mom passed away and I got out of the limo to look up and see my whole team there, I was blown away. Their support meant so much to me. I’ve never worked with a group of people who respect one another so much and vibe together so well.”

She also has two new accomplishments to keep the smile on her face. Her daughter Ashley just graduated with a master’s in social work from Quinnipiac, and her younger daughter, Aysia, will graduate from Salve Regina this May with a bachelor’s in psychology. She plans to continue working towards her master’s degree in behavioral analysis, graduating in December 2020.

Fun Facts - Terry Reese:

Q: What advice would you give to new hires?

A: Don’t stay in one job for too long. Get to know Yale—it’s important. Don’t become stagnant because you won’t allow yourself the opportunity to learn and grow.

Secondly, take advantage of Yale’s benefits—they’re great!

Q: What three words best describe you?

A: Action taker, loveable, happy. 

Q: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?

A: I read now more than I ever have! I’m currently reading three books, one of which is Crushing by T.D. Jakes.

Q: What is your favorite food? Least favorite?

A: I love shrimp, prepared any way! I can’t stand brussels sprouts.