Common traits of administrative professionals include working long hours, multi-tasking, and keeping customers happy and bosses organized.
But when the anonymous description of McDuffie County's Administrative Professional of the Year included the previous qualities plus "famous cheese grits," the mystery was solved.
Every time the staff and faculty of Thomson High School has an in-service day, Joyce Shurling cooks four large crock-pots of grits, flavored with milk and eight pounds of cheese and simmered all night long.
"I knew it was me, because I didn't think anybody else in this town was that crazy," she said.
The honor was bestowed to Mrs. Shurling during the 22nd Annual Administrative Professional Luncheon sponsored by the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce. Approximately 110 administrative professionals attended the luncheon, held in the Family Life Center of Thomson First United Methodist Church last Wednesday. Lunch was prepared by Forward McDuffie Director Mike Carrington and caterer Charlotte Derry, and served by bosses of many of the administrative professionals.
Syndicated humor columnist and author Lucy Adams entertained the ladies with tales from her upcoming book Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run.
"God didn't give us laughter just for the sake of laughing," Mrs. Adams said. "Laughter refreshens us, bonds us, restores us and heals us."
It is that ability to laugh at herself and make others laugh that Mrs. Shurling specializes in. Standing behind the counter of the high school front office, she told of when she first moved to Thomson with her husband and children and decided before attending church "that we would not join First Baptist Church because I'd heard everybody there wore hats, and I'm not a hat person.
"That Sunday, everyone else in the family joined and made me look like a heathen," she said.
Since then, Mrs. Shurling has found her comfort zone at First Baptist, where she claims to have "the greatest Sunday School teacher there is."
When Thomson High School Principal Rudy Falana nominated Mrs. Shurling for the honor, he said she is "the heart, soul and lifeblood of this institution."
"Mrs. Shurling comes from a generation that believes in loyalty, dedication, respect and hard work," he said.
Mrs. Shurling's personal philosophy is more simple.
"I love God, my church and my family," she said. "And my school is my second family. God, family and school come first."
In her 37 years at THS, Mrs. Shurling has worked for six principals and seen three generations of students pass through the doors of the high school office. Most of them -- former students, present students and faculty -- call her "Mama."
"I don't want to ever see anybody hurt any of them," she said.
"But, if they do something wrong, I'm going to tell them and straighten them out just like I would my own kids." Mrs. Shurling and Bill, her husband of 53 years, have two sons, three grandsons and one granddaughter.
"Her son said she deserves the award, because she didn't let him get away with anything when he went to school there at THS," said Julie Langham, as she presented the award at the luncheon.
"Though she would not define herself this way, Joyce is a true leader," Mr. Falana said in his nomination letter. "Leadership is not about position or power, but about respect. Joyce Shurling is probably the most respected individual in our school."
Mrs. Shurling's awards for being named Administrative Professional of the Year included a 19" Magnavox flat screen TV donated by Badcock, roses donated by Peacock Hill and a cake from Chinaberry Foods.