Environmental Factor, September 2010, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Army gains as NIEHS loses Gentry
By Eddy Ball
Friends and colleagues gathered Aug. 10 to wish departing Office of Acquisitions (OA) Supervisory Contract Specialist Melissa Gentry the best in her new job at the Army Research Office (ARO). While testimonials, food, and fellowship dominated the going away party, speakers who came to celebrate Gentry's contributions also lamented the Institute's loss of one of its much beloved senior contract specialists to another agency.
In their talks about how much Gentry will be missed, several of those speakers took advantage of having Don Gula in the audience. Gula is a longtime friend and colleague of Gentry and was an NIEHS employee for 20 years when he took a job at ARO in 2009. Some of the speakers joked that Gula had played a part in persuading Gentry to take her new job.
Gentry's supervisor and event emcee, Gary Delaney, opened the party by saying that he promised Gentry he would not throw a "Gula-Bash" of embarrassing tributes, while at the same time referring to all the accomplishments he said "I can't talk about." To keep his promise to Gentry, Delaney opened the floor for spontaneous tributes from those who hadn't been a party to his promise.
As Delaney said afterwards, he didn't realize that this informal Gula-Bash would also turn into something of a good-natured Gula-Roast.
In a show-stealing stand-up routine that kept the audience laughing, Jimmy Bryant, a contract specialist in the OA, wove references to Gula into a monologue in praise of his colleague. Bryant said of Gentry, "She's good people," as he offered example after example of her humor, dedication, and professionalism. He punctuated his tribute with several good-natured jabs at Gula, saying, "I'm not happy with Don," and concluding, "He has really, really worked my nerves."
By the time she had listened to fond memories and farewells from so many of her friends at NIEHS, including a poem composed by OA colleague Vondia (Collete) Malone, Gentry was almost in tears. She managed to maintain her composure long enough, however, to move the party on to the refreshment table, as she talked individually with friends from throughout NIEHS.
Bryant clearly spoke for many in the room about a future at NIEHS without Gentry, when he recalled the words she used to encourage him in times of stress and frustration. "She said, 'Jimmy, trust and believe.'"