Career Tails

I started at Purina in 1963…

The company has changed a lot throughout the past 50 years. Donna Harper would know. She started working for Purina in 1963.

Donna, Specialist, Change and Release, GLOBE Technology Solutions, started her journey with Ralston Purina in the fall of 1963. Fresh out of high school and living just across the Mississippi River in Granite City, Illinois, she applied at Purina because of its reputation.

"Ralston Purina had a family feeling," Donna says.

For nine months, Donna was the sole person who manually counted coupons, handled refunds and verified invoices.

"I started after the big fire in 1962," Donna says. "I was on the first floor of the A Building and the wall I sat in front of was one of the walls that blew in during the explosion and fire."

Then Donna moved to Kansas City, Missouri, only to return a few years later to St. Louis and Ralston Purina – this time as a comptometer operator.

Her main responsibilities included calculating mileage for sales representatives, formulas and manifolds for plants, and price lists for products, in addition to other miscellaneous work for the company.

In 1968, Donna’s role transitioned to Documentation Specialist. She says her supervisor was probably the biggest influence throughout her career.

"She was a pain in some ways," Donna jokes. "She was a stickler, but she was very helpful. She would explain processes and encourage me to take courses to help advance my career."

Donna learned how to properly document systems that were integrating into the computer mainframe before moving to the System Implementations group in 1981. There she provided the interface between the systems team and mainframe, and her job included running system tests, scheduling jobs and moving programs from the staging area to the production area.

A few years after Ralston Purina became Nestlé Purina in 2001, Donna began her current role as a Change and Release Specialist in GLOBE.

Looking back over her various roles and countless company events, Donna says ‘Checker Days’ are some of her favorite memories.

"Checker Day was a lot of fun," she says. "Everyone was dressed in costumes, and you’d get groups who would also dress up as different characters. We had the cafeteria on the fourth floor of the A Building, and they would parade through there. It was a general feeling of goodwill and good times."

Donna knows that for some, 50 years at one company may seem like a long time. But when asked why she’s stayed at Purina for half a century, her answer was quite simple.

"I like the work, and I like the people," she says. "I never had a calling to go elsewhere."

Patricia Rooney, Security Technology Specialist, CSU Group, has known Donna for 47 years and worked with her for 14 years.

"When I think of Donna Harper, I think of someone who is accurate, helpful and a great coworker," Patricia says.

"The people have always been the best part of the company," Donna says. "They’re always so cordial and friendly. I still exchange Christmas cards with people I worked with back in the 60s."

Though she doesn’t have any definite plans after retirement, she has thought about what life would be like after Purina.

"I do genealogy for my family, and there are some places I’d like to visit," Donna says. "My family came from England and Ireland, and I would like to go there."

After 50 years, most people probably agree that she deserves a vacation. Or two.

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