Celebrating Work BFFs on This Valentine’s Day

Colleagues share how work friends at Duke have helped them in their roles and life

Work friends across Duke

In celebration of Valentine’s Day this week, here are 14 BFF stories at Duke.  

Birthdays and Carpools

Lisa Wioskowski and Nancy Wines hang out on the beach together during vacation.

When they first became colleagues in 2010 in The Duke Graduate School, Lisa Wioskowski and Nancy Wines realized they shared the same birthday and began their friendship with a single decision to have lunch together.

Slowly, that led to dinners with spouses, who also became close friends. Before long, they took vacations together and began a carpool to work.

Even after Wioskowski moved to a new role in the School of Medicine, the friendship has remained strong.

“Nancy is very upbeat, fun and has a great shoulder to cry on, or the best hug you could ask for,” Wioskowski said. “She always listens … always putting a smile on my face.”

New Nurses, New Friends

Colleagues Caroline Carson and Anna Howell wear matching scrub tops while working the same shift at Duke University Hospital.

After graduating from nursing school in December 2021, Caroline Carson and Anna Howell started their first jobs at the same time in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Hospital.

They quickly bonded over shared experiences on the unit.

“We love it when we work the same shifts together, and we can wear matching patterned scrub tops,” Carson said. “It is hard to believe we have been nurses for almost a year. I was super thankful to meet such a kind, genuine person so soon into the start of my nursing job at Duke.”

Former Colleagues Reunite

Mackenzie Ray and Jamario Joyner show their alma mater school spirit when they worked together before coming to Duke.

Mackenzie Ray and Jamario Joyner worked together at another company in Morrisville and became friends after joining the company’s softball league.

When Ray decided to accept a job at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute in 2020, she hoped they’d one day work together again.

When a position opened last year, she let Joyner know, and he applied.

Now reunited at Duke, the two friends bring energy to their team and help organize social events with colleagues. They also recently won an office TikTok dance competition.

Though on separate projects, Ray and Joyner are both GMP Technical Operations Associate Scientists/Engineers who help move vaccines from research to phase one clinical trials.

“I feel like we just push each other to do better in our careers,” Ray said.

A Helpful Guide in Durham

Courtney Sullivan and Marcia Crippen twin with matching sweaters.

Courtney Sullivan and Marcia Crippen, colleagues in the Nicholas School of the Environment, started their jobs on the same day amid the pandemic in September 2021.

As they settled into offices right down the hall from each other, they realized they could be a resource for each other.

Sullivan, who had moved to Durham for the position from Indiana, said Crippen was crucial for helping her navigate the transition to North Carolina.

Crippen grew up in Apex and has provided support, a ride to work and restaurant recommendations.

“Outside of work, we enjoy trying new places, especially local coffee shops.” Sullivan said. “My time at Duke has been extra special working alongside my best friend, Marcia.”

Support as New Leaders

Holly Glover and Crystal Crider lean on each other as fellow nurse managers.

Holly Glover and Crystal Crider worked for nearly 10 years together as nurses in the Duke University Hospital Emergency Department.

And in November 2021, they were promoted to nurse managers on the same day.

Even though they no longer work closely together, their relationship has transitioned to colleagues who lean on each other for support in their leadership roles.

“Even though we lead two different teams, there are not many days that we do not call each other throughout the day or on our rides home from work to let off steam, bounce ideas off of one another or just laugh together,” Glover said. “I am ever so grateful for her, and my life is better because of her friendship.

Keeping Up a Relationship Remotely

Tara Clayton and Jessica Cranfill enjoy Thursday Zoom sessions together.

Jessica Cranfill of the Duke Office of Clinical Research and Tara Clayton of the Duke Office of Post Award Administration used to sit beside each other in the office every day and enjoyed fun times, including leaving notes and going out for coffee.

When Cranfill moved to a role on a different floor in early 2020, she and Clayton kept meeting for coffee. Shortly after, the pandemic sent everyone in their building home, but they kept meeting for virtual morning coffee every Thursday.

That tradition continues today.

“That truly helped me so much during lockdown,” Cranfill said. “We both still work from home and our Zoom meetups have continued into 2023. Thursday Tara and Jessica Time is my favorite meeting of the week.”

A Prescription for a Long-lasting Friendship

Rebecca Richard and Jennifer Southworth walk through the halls together of Duke University Hospital.

When Rebecca Richard started working at Duke in 2000, Jennifer Southworth was part of a group of pharmacists who trained her in the Clinical and Patient Care Pharmacy in Duke University Hospital.

Since then, the two colleagues have supported each other through important milestones.

Southworth traveled 700 miles to attend Richard’s wedding, and the two have celebrated the addition of puppies, children and more.

“We have supported each other through stressful times at work, the loss of parents and some scary medical diagnoses,” Richard said. “We work on the same unit I could not ask for a better partner on the unit or friend.”

Friendship Trees

The staff of Duke Forest gathers to celebrate a tree planted in honor of Beverly Burgess.

When administrative assistant Beverly Burgess retired on Jan. 6, 2023, the staff of Duke Forest held a surprise event with dozens of colleagues from the Nicholas School of the Environment to plant a White Oak tree in her honor.

The tree in Duke Forest stands next to another dedicated in memory of her colleague, Karen Kirchof, one of Burgess’ closest friends who died a few years ago. Burgess was a close confidant to many staff and students in the Nicholas School, where the Forest’s office is located.

“Bev was in tears saying, ‘You mean I get to hang out with Karen?’” said Blake Tedder, assistant director of engagement for Duke Forest.

During her 16 years at Duke, Burgess was a big part of the success of the Duke Forest team, taking care of financial bookkeeping, running the Pine Cone Pacer 5K fundraiser and other programs.

“Her story is one of the many at Duke who are old-school, not flashy and out-front but loyal, dependable, and good,” Tedder said. “We will miss her presence immensely.”

‘Sounding Boards’ for Each other

Yeu-Li Yeung and Jennifer McIlvaine support each other in the Duke Occupational Health & Safety Office.

As safety and health specialists, Jennifer McIlvaine and Yeu-Li Yeung share similar roles in the Ergonomics Division of the Duke Occupational Health & Safety Office but support different areas of the health system.

“That means we encounter the same challenges, so we support each other by listening and sharing ideas,” McIlvaine said. “Although we come from different backgrounds, we share the same values.”

They are also caring for aging parents and raising teenage daughters.

“Through both the tough and joyous times, Yeu-Li and I are sounding boards for each other and provide emotional support whenever it's needed,” McIlvaine said. “I'm so grateful for my work sister.” 

A Lunch Invitation

15 years after they started working together, Candace Gentry and Jamie Tyler-Walker take a photo together.

Jamie Tyler-Walker was ready to eat lunch alone when he received a phone call from colleague Candace Gentry, who’d also just started working in then-Performance Improvement at Duke Regional Hospital in 2007.

“Jamie, it's time for lunch,” Gentry said. “Come to the breakroom."

Tyler-Walker and Gentry have now been colleagues and close work friends for over 15 years, even as Tyler-Walker now works for Duke Health Technology Solutions. They can always trust each other and find time to share a laugh.

“Sometimes we sought each other's advice … but we also got to know each other as people through sharing stories of our lives outside of work,” Tyler-Walker said. “Candace has the best stories and isn't afraid to laugh at her own expense.”

A Favorite Part of Work

Grace Sullivan Zirkle and Carina Carpenter work closely together in New Student and Family Programs.

Carina Carpenter and Grace Sullivan Zirkle work together as associate directors for New Student and Family Programs and were part of the team that created and implemented Duke's Experiential Orientation model within QuadEx. 

Carpenter appreciates Zirkle’s deft skill for weaving in thoughtfulness, kindness, and hard work into interactions.

“She never misses an opportunity to celebrate someone’s accomplishments, even if it’s a small milestone in part of a larger project,” Carpenter said. “I appreciate her ability to think and process through situations before making decisions, and how she thinks of multiple perspectives. She is one of my favorite parts of going to work, and I feel so lucky to be her work partner.”

‘Family at Work’

Stefanie Resillez and Amy Lindsay grew closer through the support of Lindsay while she cared for her mother.

Amy Lindsay and Stefanie Resillez met through Duke MINDS, an affinity group for young professionals in the Duke University Health System.

In the summer of 2022, Lindsay took a leave of absence to care for her mother who was battling breast cancer.

“During this time, Stefanie would also reach out to me, not to discuss work, or when I would be back to help, but to check in on me and my mom,” Lindsay said. “Stefanie made me feel like I had family at work. I'm so thankful Duke brought Stefanie into my life.”

Resillez likewise called Lindsay family and said she is grateful to have met her through Duke Health’s affinity groups.

“She’s become a dear friend at a time I needed it the most, and became like family at work,” Resillez said.

Sharing Trust and Connection

Jooyoung Chun, left, has helped Mollie LoJacono adjust to her new role in the Sanford School of Public Policy.

When Mollie LoJacono joined Duke in 2022, Jooyoung Chun helped LoJacono get up to speed as a senior program coordinator in the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Whenever she needed help or advice, Chun has been provided expertise as a longer-tenured program coordinator in the office. LoJacono and Chun also cultivated a friendship beyond work, trading stories of parenting adventures.

“I enjoy her company, and we often laugh together,” LoJacono said. “It is important to have colleagues you can trust and feel connected to both professionally and personally, and I feel this way with Jooyoung.”

Porch Hangouts to Pandemic Pets

Jill Danforth and Jill Foster share offices across the hall from each other in the Department of Biology.

Jill Foster and Jill Danforth, who have offices across the hall from each other in the Department of Biology, got to know each other over their shared first name.

They realized that was far from their only commonality: They were both raising young children, who became fast friends, and the colleagues coincidentally bought homes around the block from each other.

“Jill Foster is a ray of sunshine! She is one of those amazing people who is always thinking about and doing things for others, like writing this story entry,” Danforth said. “I’m so lucky to be her friend.”

During the pandemic, the Foster and Danforth families were among a small number of people in each other’s pods. They shared porch hanouts and adopted pets.

“Her calm demeanor is a balm to my anxiety-prone one, and she’s one of the kindest, most patient, and least judgmental people I know,” Foster said. “Working at Duke the last 22 years has brought many good things into my life, but introducing me to Jill Danforth is among the most valuable.”

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