Two Campus Dining employees share their stories
Dear reader, allow me the honor of introducing Ms. Dee Dolores Michael and Ms. Beverly Skopec, two of South Dining Hall’s beloved employees. Smiling and waving, Dee and Beverly welcome thousands of Notre Dame students into South Dining Hall every day. Dee, who is from Terre Haute, IN, has worked for Campus Dining for 11 years. Beverly is from Mishawaka, IN and has worked for Campus dining for 5 years.
Over a decade ago, Dee first got a job with Notre Dame Dining because she was bored with retirement and looking for something to keep her busy. Similarly, Beverly joined the Notre Dame Dining staff five years ago in hopes of staying active in retirement. Unlike Dee, Beverly had worked for Campus Dining previously—once in high school as a dining hall employee and later in catering services for football weekends.
Before working for Notre Dame Dining, Dee held a wide variety of jobs, all of which testify to her resilient, hardworking personality. One of her first positions was as supervisor of a pretzel and potato chip company.
“When I took the job, a woman appointed me supervisor and the plant manager thought that because I was a woman I shouldn’t have the job, and my husband didn’t think I could do it either. A little red light went off in my head and I said, ‘Oh, man, I got to do this,’” Dee said.
When Dee returned to South Bend in the 1980s, she worked in transcription services. This position involved transcribing class lectures for deaf students and dissertations for doctoral students at Notre Dame, the second of which often required her to transcribe in foreign languages, including Latin. In addition to her endeavors at the university, Dee also transcribed research documents for two psychologists and a neuropsychologist affiliated with outside institutions. She found her work with the child neuropsychologist to be especially interesting and greatly enjoyed working with professionals and students alike.
Even more impressive than her experiences in the workforce, Dee is a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. She has four children—two boys and two girls—eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have gone on to become judges, professors, and parents. Dee’s maternal vocation is very important to her, and it shapes the way she interacts with students, many of whom view her as a grandparental figure.
Family is not only an important part of Dee’s life away from South Dining Hall but also within it. Just recently her daughter, who is also retired, got a job at the dining hall and will soon be working alongside her mother—something Dee eagerly anticipates.
Beverly highlighted various other familial connections within the dining hall staff, explaining, “We have a brother and sister, and we have some other relatives that work together here, too. That’s another thing that’s important about Notre Dame: they’ll hire family.”
“And [Campus Dining] takes care of us,” added Dee. “They’ve really been good to us.”
Reflecting their appreciation for the familial atmosphere of Notre Dame Dining, Dee and Beverly’s favorite part of working at the dining hall is interacting with the students. Though they have served in a wide variety of roles in the dining hall, their favorite assignment is greeting students at the entrance.
“I like the fact that when the kids come in, I am able to swipe their cards and know who they are. I try to get a feel for who the kids are and see what they’re doing. There are students that are like a grandkid to us,” explained Dee.
“[The interaction with the students] is what I enjoy too,” added Beverly, “because a lot of students are tired or have midterms or whatever. One guy came in here [South Dining Hall] and said, ‘I came here just so I could take an hour to sit down and eat my meal and get away from my studies.’ That’s why we are here, so [students] can relax a little bit. And I like the students who after we greet them, say, ‘Thank you.’ I really appreciate it.”
Dee and Beverly remember students by name and give forgetful students a hard time for forgetting their ID cards for the third time in three days. Their consistent welcome and cheerful presence brighten the days of many students, especially during the challenging moments of college life—midterms, finals, and homesickness.
Beverly described her appreciation for the day-to-day encounters with students, saying, “One guy came, looked at Dee and me, smiled, and said he was so happy to see us. That really touches our hearts.”
For Dee and Beverly, the power of personal connection is what makes working at the dining hall meaningful. When asked whether she prefers North or South Dining Hall, Dee replied, “North Dining Hall is too impersonal in my opinion, because you don’t have that one on one with the kids,” referring to the automatic gate system in North Dining Hall, which eliminates the need for people like Dee and Beverly to welcome students and scan their ID cards.
Beverly and Dee testify to the power of ordinary interaction. The message of their witness for college students: be personable, say “Thank you,” and tell someone you’re happy to see them. It just might touch someone’s heart.
William Smith is a sophomore from St. Charles, MN, studying theology and philosophy. Supper is his favorite meal of the day, and he enjoys long conversations in the warm atmosphere of South Dining. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo credit: William Smith