I Spy Someone making a difference.
I Spy: Nyoka Hucks Hucksby Mona Prufer
Nyoka Hucks is dressed for cold weather in a turtleneck shirt, a red vest, warm pants and her husband's grey wool socks. This is a good thing because not only did the early January day start at a wintry 18 degrees, but the electricity at her Aynor house went out, and the heat in the Smith Science Center where she works was out for three days.
"Please, no pictures," she begs when asked if she might pose at her desk. "I'm a behind-the-scenes kind of person!"
Hucks is one of those behind-the scenes people that other people cannot do without. An administrative assistant in the College of Science for 10 years, she is accustomed to helping deans – she's currently on her fourth – faculty members, staffers and students with their problems. From the paperwork to life decisions, she tries to be there for others.
"I love helping people," says Hucks. "I can't say no; it's not in my vocabulary."
Science Dean Mike Roberts agrees. "Nyoka is always there to lend a hand – from helping a faculty member fill out a travel reimbursement, to arranging a vehicle reservation for a graduate student," he says. "Her helpfulness is a critical part of our success in allowing our office to meet the needs of the entire College of Science."
Students' needs are the ones most dear to her heart. "I do all I can to help students. I tell them I'm not an adviser, but I am a mother…" She helps students register for classes, she helps with paperwork, she loans them a dollar for the drink machine and tells them to study hard and love the career field they choose. "Being in the Dean's Office, you have a lot of contact with students. They aren't always happy to be there, but you can at least listen to them."
Hucks is one of 12 administrative specialists and assistants in the College of Science who adopt a local charity to help each month. "We call them up to see what they need," says Hucks, who came up with the idea for the charity-of-the-month program about a year ago. One month they gave the Waccamaw Boys Home $65 worth of hamburger meat, another month they collected items for the Humane Society, another time it was Backpack Kids. At Thanksgiving, they helped two families in need.
For January, they are taking donations for Fostering Hope and have donation boxes in front of Nyoka’s office in the Smith Science Center (room 124) and at Julie Quinn’s office in the Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies.
"I'm a person who doesn't like to talk things to death or take credit or anything, I just like to get things done," says Hucks.
The youngest of 10 children, Hucks got her unusual first name from an older brother who was a huge fan of the Tarzan-like movie serial "Nyoka and the Tigermen" from the 1940s. "My brother fell in love with Nyoka on the screen and just insisted that my mama name me that," says probably the only Nyoka to come out of Aynor. She even has a "Nyoka" comic book from her birth year.
Nyoka married Jackie, also a Hucks, but from Cedar Grove. "As far as I know, we have no relatives in common," she says. "So I'm Nyoka Hucks Hucks, but I go by Nyoka H. Hucks."
She and Jackie have two daughters: Jennifer Dimery, a CCU graduate who works in the Carolina Collegiate Credit Union on campus, and Alana Hucks, also a CCU graduate, who has worked with Citigroup in Manhattan for five years.
When Nyoka isn't at work at CCU, she is serving as clerk-treasurer of her longtime church, the Rehoboth Baptist Church of Aynor, where her great-grandfather is buried, along with her grandfather and her parents. "My church is my family," she says, adding that she takes care of the church books "because I don't feel like I have a lot of talents so it's a way to give back to the Lord." Later she mentions singing in the choir, which she has done since getting baptized in the Little Pee Dee River.
Gardening is another passion of Hucks; she loves to do things in "my playhouse," a greenhouse that her husband made her. She even starts her vegetables from seed to plant in the garden after Easter. From the crop, she freezes, cans, makes pickles, puts up tomatoes – "all those things my mother used to do."
Hucks also volunteers at Playcard Environmental Educational Center, especially on Baby Animal Day in April where she makes brooms from broom sedge for the children.
In addition to her readiness to help others and her can-do spirit, Hucks was praised by Dean Roberts for her encouraging attitude: "Whenever she is asked how she is doing, Nyoka always answers: 'SUPER!' Her positive attitude is infectious and positively influences all those around her."
Visit the Human Resources' web site for more I Spy nominees and to nominate someone you think is special: https://www.coastal.edu/hreo/workplace/ispy.html.