Joanne McDonald, acting manager of health services, remembers telling her mother she would never work in an office. As she leaned back in her black office chair, McDonald’s shoulders shook with laughter.

“Boy, did I eat those words.”

Office to office, department to department, McDonald, is retiring from Algonquin, a place she’s called her second home for 33 years.

Born and raised in Nepean, McDonald spent her childhood as a self-proclaimed science geek and graduated with a diploma in Algonquin’s medical laboratory technician program.

Soon after, she began working full-time at the college’s former Rideau campus. It was there McDonald began her long-lasting career with the school.

A desktop computer, a cellphone placed to the side on her paper-covered desk, McDonald recalls the electric typewriters she used when her career first began.

Now, she is ready to move on.

From planning orientation events for new students to organizing co-op placements, McDonald takes pride in the many hats she has worn at Algonquin.

Starting as an assistant in the Rideau campus health sciences office, McDonald transferred to the Woodroffe campus where she spent her career in a variety of departments.

Her career has gone full-circle, taking her back to the health department at the school as acting manager of health services.

It’s less the paperwork and long days McDonald will hold close as she looks back on her career, but rather the every day interactions with students and colleagues.

“There have been some truly amazing students that I’ve met over the years,” said McDonald. “I learned things from them too.”

The compassion McDonald has gained through helping students in need with gift cards to buy necessities or gently used clothing for a job interview is a value her time at Algonquin instilled in her.

McDonald’s job has made her a better person, however she is ready to find a new calling in life.

“I haven’t regretted retiring once,” she added, clasping her hands together. “I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve done a lot of stuff. It’s just time to do different things.”

While some may worry at the thought of a new routine, McDonald, who is known to never shy away from a challenge, is ready to embrace the change ahead of her.

She hopes to spend more time with her family and their two golden retrievers, something that was a challenge at times over her demanding career, but something she remains grateful for.

The support from her family and colleagues throughout her career have shown McDonald the importance of balancing your passion for work and your passion for family.

“It’s ok to work hard. You’re going to have to do extra,” McDonald said. “But don’t let it take over. Don’t let it be the only piece to your life.”

A love for Ottawa, Algonquin and the people McDonald has met have made for a successful career full of moments McDonald will take with her when she leaves.

McDonald stresses the importance of being open-minded in every aspect of life.

It is after all, what lead her to sit down in her first office chair 33 years ago.

“I consider myself so fortunate,” said McDonald with a small crack in her voice. “I have grown up here at Algonquin, and I am so grateful to everyone for the opportunities this school, and the people, have provided me.”