Darnley Alleyne (right) training a client

Working at the same place for 35 years might seem monotonous to some, but Barnard receiving clerk Darnley Alleyne finds ways to keep it interesting. Whether it’s cracking a joke with a UPS delivery person, poking fun at his co-workers, or creating a pushup challenge — he and a former colleague once worked their way up from 200 to nearly 1,000 a day — his favorite part of the job is the camaraderie.

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Forging friendships on campus led to one of the most important relationships in Alleyne’s life: the marriage to his wife Catherine. The two met as employees at Barnard in the early 1990s, when Alleyne worked in the mailroom and Catherine was in Facilities, and later celebrated their wedding at the College. Altschul Atrium was transformed into a ceremony space, and McIntosh Center, which preceded the Diana Center, became a cocktail hour and reception venue for the occasion. “Campus never looked so good,” said Alleyne.

But building lifelong connections isn’t the only thing that’s kept Alleyne going all of these years. The secret to his success has been finding ways to reinvent himself. “You’re not going to succeed at everything, but if you don’t try it you’ll never know,” he said. This perspective has guided Alleyne not only as a Barnard employee but also in his years-long quest to become a physical fitness trainer.

Alleyne started working out seriously in high school after seeing the effect it had on one of his brothers. He also had a hunch that it might help him in his romantic life. “To have the girls, you either had to be good-looking or have a lot of money,” Alleyne joked. “But I figured if I got better physically, maybe that would be something.” 

He liked working out so much that after he had graduated high school, he continued to hit the gym with a friend. He used the bench press and various strength training machines regularly to stay in shape. As he became stronger and perfected his form, others took notice. People started coming up to him at the gym during his workouts to ask for help.

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Alleyne joined the Barnard staff in the late 1980s, and after about 20 years on the job, he took a part-time position at New York Sports Club. It was around this time that he decided to get certified as a personal trainer. But after failing the rigorous exam a couple of times, Alleyne became discouraged. That’s when a friend from Barnard reached out and invited him to teach part of his fitness class at the College. Alleyne was trepidatious going in, but his worries quickly subsided. The class — which focused on balance and core exercises — was a resounding success. The confidence boost motivated him to keep studying to become certified and eventually pass his certification exam.

 You’re not going to succeed at everything, but if you don’t try it you’ll never know.

—Darnley Alleyne

Soon after, Alleyne began training people across the street at Columbia, and within a year, he was offering sessions at Barnard. Over the next decade, Alleyne trained hundreds of faculty, staff, and students from both campuses, teaching them free-weight workouts, cardio exercises, resistance training, and more. Campus members often expressed surprise when they saw his name on Barnard’s physical education website. “Hey, I heard you’re a trainer!” and “You do that, too?” were common refrains.

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Alleyne decided to rethink the way he did business. Rather than conduct online classes, he brought the workouts to his clients. Armed with a mask, gloves, and a bag of equipment, Alleyne embarked on his next chapter — one he continues to this day — as an at-home physical fitness trainer.

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Alleyne’s favorite part of being a trainer is watching clients succeed and grow in confidence. It doesn’t matter if they have years of experience or none at all — Alleyne trains people from all walks of life and meets them wherever they are. His approach has always been to build workouts designed with his clients’ individual needs in mind.

When one of his clients told him she needed to pass a physical fitness test to join the transit police, Alleyne knew exactly what was needed to bring her up to speed. The two met at New York Sports Club for weekly workouts, and with Alleyne’s help, she passed. “I was ecstatic and proud of her,” said Alleyne. When another client was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Alleyne developed exercises she could do with her walker to maintain balance and strength. 

Similar to his work at Barnard, Alleyne finds fulfillment in the close rapport he’s built with clients. For him, it’s not about the money; it’s about the people. “When you’re seeing someone once a week or twice every week, for years, you can’t help but get attached,” he said.
These days, Alleyne splits his time between his receiving-room duties and at-home training sessions. He spends hours on campus sorting, processing, and delivering hundreds of packages to Barnard’s faculty and staff before jetting off to his clients’ houses in and around Morningside Heights and Harlem. Amid all of this, he carves out time for family and his own physical well-being.

Alleyne admits that it is sometimes hectic balancing two jobs, but he considers himself lucky. After all, he’s living his dream.

“I’ve come a long way. I remember when I had the dream. I wanted to do it, I struggled to do it, and finally did it. And here I am,” he said.

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