“Good Morning, Fuller Seminary”

Terry Harrris

“Good morning, Fuller Seminary.” This is how switchboard receptionist Terry Lynne Harris has answered her work phone for 18 years, daily transferring dozens of calls to destinations across the Pasadena campus: to Mandy in Fuller’s executive office, to Clementina at Centro Latino, to Maria at the campus post office. She takes pride in accuracy and has most of the extensions memorized. On one unusually quiet day recently, Terry calls out with her winsome voice to a colleague in the cubicle beside her: Terry Harris Fuller Semianry Switchboard“Will you call me, Morgan? It’s too quietI want to make sure the phones  are working!”

A Los Angeles native, Terry grew up taking Sunday drives with her mother through the city’s West Adams district where they admired the elaborate Victorian mansions, sharing an affinity for the intricate detail and rich history. Her mother’s contagious love for architecture inspired Terry to later earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in interior design from California State University Long Beach, which fueled 13 years of a professional life as a Certified Interior Designer and gave her an outlet for natural artistic abilitiesa talent she inherited from her father.

A downward trend in that unstable industry motivated Terry to further her education, and she began a master’s degree in human development at Pacific Oaks College. In the years to come her thesis, “Art as a Source of Healing: Recovery From Loss,” would study how victims of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters benefited by simply doing art—and once again Terry would find a channel for her artistic passion.

When she decided to leave interior design as a career, Terry was eager to find a dependable job in a Christian environment where her days might be spent in deeper community. A friend in her Bible study mentioned a position in the parking department at Fuller Seminary, and Terry knew she had to take it. Two years later she moved into her current role of senior switchboard receptionist and quickly learned how to take and transfer all sorts of calls, ranging from the serious to the pranks. Before she knew it she had become the “voice of Fuller.”

The job requires her to be “on” at all timesprepared for anything from an emergency to a simple call transfer. It now comes naturally to Terry while providing the stability she always hoped for. Even on her more stressful days she is grateful for her interactions with people, looking forward to the moments when someone stops by her desk to make an inquiry. Technology has made Terry’s job more efficient than when she first started, allowing her to take on additional responsibilities—but she still takes time to truly listen to and care for everyone she works with, earning her the 2008-2009 All-Seminary Council Service Award.

Terry Harris showing her artThese days, Terry saves her weekends for creating art. Pen and ink and Prismacolors are her favorite media; her art is precise and delicate, just as she is. Her gifts for accuracy in her architectural drawings and for blending color in her landscapes reveal how her history has influenced her in style and technique. Of particular pride to her are her drawings of Fuller Seminary’s iconic Payton Hall at the Pasadena campus—used three times on the seminary’s holiday greeting cards.

Because her job at Fuller relieves any pressure for her to earn a paycheck by her art, Terry’s drawings have become as therapeutic for her as they are an expression of her love for Christ. She reflects on her life experiences as she drawsboth the happy and the sad—and knows that it is no accident she is at Fuller. As she says, she simply answered God’s call.