Maggie Duncan, Staff Writer
Despite differences in major, hometown or personality, one commonality unites all college students: we are tired.
With that shared trait comes a related second: Waking up in the morning is, without a doubt, the hardest part of the day. In my native dorm of McGlinn Hall, however, sunshine always seems to find a way through the dark hallways to brighten every person’s day. The beams of light of which I speak are the McGlinn housekeepers, Miss Emma Owens and Miss Donna Collins. Both of these kindly ladies agreed to talk with me for a few minutes about how they keep the mornings bright and bring joy to “their girls.”
Both Owens and Collins are South Bend natives. The two have worked together for 16 years, but Owens arrived on campus before her work-partner; she began working for Notre Dame 24 years ago, while Collins arrived here 20 years ago.
“My first year I worked over at LaFortune in the Huddle. I worked five years in Flanner Hall. I’ve been in McGlinn since it’s been built, which is 16 years,” Owens said.
While working at the university, Owens has been busy as a mother as well. Besides her Notre Dame “girls,” Owens has a large family of her own.
“I have four children. They’re all grown, and I have 12 grandchildren,” she explained.
When I asked Owens about her favorite memory here at Notre Dame, she had a unique reply:
“My favorite memory of working out here, I must say, was when Flanner had this humongous flood. I mean water was cascading down the stairwell. They had a 24-hour lounge on the first floor and by the time the water got into it, it looked like Flanner had a swimming pool. They had called the news and they were all out there filming it. It took us 6 to 8 hours to clean that. That’s my most memorable moment out here. “
With her long history here, I asked Owens the question everyone wonders about Notre Dame: Is it really a family? Her answer did not disappoint.
“Yes, I do believe it’s true. As far as like with me and Miss Donna, we’ve been here 16 years together. I love her, she loves me, and you couldn’t take us apart.”
Collins has the same love for Owens in return. She began work in South Dining Hall, and then moved to Knott Hall. She also started working in McGlinn when the dorm opened. It’s been like a family ever since.
“I met Emma and we started working together,” Collins said. “Our current Sister Mary [Rector of McGlinn Hall] has been with us for 9 years and we’ve had Father Tom [Blantz, CSC] for about 13 years here, so we’re family. We are really happy here with our girls.”
Collins also commented on the variance between boys’ and girls’ dorms: “Girls keep things more in place than the guys and they do things different than the guys.”
At this point, the two laughed together.
“The girls, it’s more of an up for our morale. I don’t want to work in a boys dorm, this is my favorite, and we really like it here. We plan to retire out of here and spend the rest of our 10 years together here. We’ve been together as housekeepers for the longest together out of anyone.”
Owens smiles at this and quips, “So that’s quite a feat in itself.”
Sometimes college students can be moody and messy, so I wondered if these two housekeepers truly enjoyed interacting with the sometimes grumpy and tired students. Collins replied emphatically, “Yes we do. They make our workday very, very enjoyable. We’re very thankful for them. The students bring joy to each of our workdays.”
Owens had something to say, too: “As far as I’m concerned, I think our students appreciate us more than any other dorm because we treat you all with kindness and love.”
Collins finished the sentiment, “We just feel like a family. It’s a real nice place to work. Everybody’s friendly here. You know, even the squirrels are friendly. Those squirrels are lost during the summer without the students.”
Perhaps the friendliest of anyone at Notre Dame, though, are these two ladies. Their kind hearts showed through as they answered my last question: Do they see the students as their own children?
“Yes, we do. As Sister tells the parents of the freshman, we will take care of their kids and we will be very, very nice to their girls. We feel like they are our girls. We love them,” Collins said.
“Our daughters,” Owens added happily.
While waking up every morning may continue to be a struggle, there is one thing students can count on to make their mornings a little more cheerful: the bright staff that works at Notre Dame. In McGlinn, your daily dose of sunshine is sure to come from the wonderful Miss Emma and Miss Donna.
Maggie Duncan is a freshman living in McGlinn Hall. If you would like more info on what else makes McGlinn the best dorm on campus besides its housekeepers, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.