Tina Slone came to Marshall on a wave of pain, reeling from an unimaginable tragedy that took the life of her baby daughter.
Born in April 2006 to Kelly and Tina Slone, Jaylin entered the world with multiple health problems and died the following January. But the family’s Marshall connections were deep and enduring, Tina, who is an administrative secretary senior in the College of Information Technology and Engineering, and the Center for Environmental Geotechnical and Applied Sciences, says.
Slone's then-husband, Kelly, worked in Computing Services and the Marshall community rallied around the couple by sponsoring a series of fundraising activities, including the auction of themed baskets. The Computing Services website carried Jaylin’s photo and story for a long time. When Slone came to work at CITE, nine months after Jaylin’s death, she says she was overwhelmed by the support she received.
“I got to meet many of the people who had done so much for us,” she says. “I was blown away at the love they had given us. At last I was able to thank people in person for all they had done. Working here definitely helped me begin to move on.”
Today she’s an enthusiastic scuba diver and photographer who’s looking forward to an upcoming trip to the Bahamas, where she’s going to try out her new diving skills for the first time in the ocean. And even her newfound passion has Marshall roots. “Marshall offers a scuba diving class and I thought it would be fun to take it, but I never dreamed I’d get into it as I have. I absolutely love it. The people who teach the class are really strict and I like that. So this will be not only my first dive in the ocean, it will be my first time out of the country.”
As a photographer, she’s an enthusiastic amateur who’s getting better at “shooting anything that doesn’t move,” she says laughing. That criterion definitely eliminates her two dogs, her “boys” as she terms them: Roush, a high-energy Chihuahua mix and Stretch, the more laid-back Dachshund. She bought a semi-professional camera and, although she’s self-taught, right now she’s getting valuable tips and experience from her stepfather, Larry Coffey, an avid photographer. The two often make excursions to sites where they hone their shooting skills. “Right now I’m concentrating on the basics--lighting, focus, framing--and we’re enjoying having this common bond.” There's one practical aspect of her hobby. She’s hoping to move to a smaller home in the near future and plans to use some of her photos as décor.
Now divorced, Slone has begun working on a degree in business management from the Lewis College of Business. “I don’t know when I’ll be finished, but I’m taking usually two classes a semester and it’s something I definitely want to complete.”
And throughout her life, in good times and bad, she’s been buoyed by an optimistic spirit that dictates if there is a sunny side of the street, she’ll try to find it.
Brought up in Prestonsburg, Ky., she headed for Texas after graduating from high school and spent three years there before moving back home. She worked at a series of jobs in her home town before coming to Marshall. Her current job allows her to represent the university in various ways, something that Slone delights in doing. “As part of my job with CEGAS, I go to conferences and help out as needed. On these trips I do some recruiting, I can’t help myself. Almost anywhere I go I wear a Marshall shirt and I’m always trying to get Marshall’s and CITE’s name out there. I love representing Marshall wherever I am. We also do tailgating for Homecoming and I work on that. It’s always a lot of fun and we try to make it a special event.”
And last year’s Homecoming was a creative coup for the innovative CITE crew because they took the award for the most creative office decorations. In keeping with the theme, “Herd Round-up,” the energetic Slone organized and oversaw the fanciful tale of Marco being held captive by the sinister UTEP Miners, complete with a hallway cum cave and a saloon with a bar, mugs of root beer, playing cards, and costumed hombres and dance hall girls straight out of a rip-roaring western. “We had a blast; we were so excited to win that award. We had tried before and we vowed we were going to come up with something unique so we were thrilled to be recognized. We have the greatest students ... they even built a float for the parade which I oversaw and got to ride on. Then every year we have a cookout for our students and we all have so much fun.”
So will the crew be entering next year’s competition? “You bet!” says the ebullient Slone. “Just as soon as they announce the theme, we’ll be working on it.”
Right now she’s wrapping up therapy on a knee injury she incurred in January after a spill on a ski slope, a trip she took with her special friend, Charlie Sullivan. “It was only the second time I had ever skied and I think I’m pretty well done with that. I’m willing to try anything once and I did but skiing is not my sport. I don’t want to do anything that will interfere with my diving so from now on I’ll stick to tubing.”
The last few years have not been easy and only her determined resolve to keep going has gotten her through the rough patches, she says. People often comment on how strong and resilient she is and she has an answer of sorts for them. “You never know how strong you are until you are put in the position that you have to be. It was horrific, the loss we felt. But sometimes the only choice is to be strong. Despite everything that has happened, I feel I am blessed. I have had such constant wonderful support from my family and my in-laws, they were awesome, and from my co-workers. I miss my daughter every day and I am grateful for the time I had but this is how my life is meant to be now and there was nothing else I could do but go on.”
Coming to Marshall was part of the healing process, Slone says reflectively. “Coming here was a terrific decision. I have the absolutely greatest co-workers, Cammy Holley and Brittney Emerson, great friends, and I love my job and what we do. I’m close to my family, my mother Sandy Coffey, who is my wonderful rock, my father Darrel Conley, and my stepfather. Right now is one of the busiest times in my life. I have my diving, my work, my 'boys,' my Charlie. I’m thrilled with where I am today.”
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