David Fenley can’t say for certain whether he’ll make it to 50 years as an MU employee before he retires, but he never expected he’d make it this far.
Fenley, a maintenance specialist at the power plant, will celebrate 42 years at MU this month. His wife, Brenda Fenley, a software support analyst in Student Information Services, isn’t far behind. She celebrated 40 years in September.
David and Brenda were born in Columbia. As a boy, David sat on the whitewashed rock M, cheering on Dan Devine’s Tigers. “Saturdays were for football,” David said. “Nothing more, nothing less. And you didn’t say a word until the game was over.”
David’s first job at MU was working in George Rédei’s lab in the College of Agriculture. Rédei was researching Arabidopsis thaliana, a small plant in the mustard family. During winter, David assisted in maintaining the greenhouses, and in summer, he helped Rédei move the plants to the South Farm Agricultural Experiment Station. David liked getting his hands dirty, but funding was tight and his position was eliminated.
After a brief stint as a custodian at Memorial Union, David got a job firing boilers at the power plant. “And the rest is history,” he said. “A co-worker and I one night several years ago figured out we could sit and name like 225 people who had come and gone, and we’re still here.”
In 1982, David’s co-worker and his spouse, who worked with Brenda, set the two up on a blind date. David and Brenda were not optimistic. David took Brenda to dinner at Bonanza and a movie, though neither can recall which flick. Brenda remembers her first impression of David. “What have I gotten myself into?” she said with a chuckle and shake of her head. “He’s quite the talker, and I’m not.”
But it works for them. David said he knew Brenda was the one when he was working the night shift and he would open his lunch box and find handwritten notes from Brenda. “Our hours were never copacetic, but we still managed to communicate,” he said.
The Fenleys married June 10, 1989.
In 1991, after nearly 20 years firing boilers, David switched to maintenance. “Anybody can turn a button, but I wanted to know when I turn that button what happens if that button doesn’t work. I wanted to see the mechanisms of it.”
Although Brenda is still processing student records for the University Registrar, the methods of her data entry have changed drastically since her first day on the job. Previously, she used a machine to punch holes into cards to record in what classes students were enrolled. Now everything is done on a computer.
“It has changed, but I still like my job,” she said.