Sisters offer a warm welcome to all who come to campus
Since its 2013 renovation, the Morris Inn has been a hallmark of the Notre Dame welcome. The “living room of our university” provides comfort and air-conditioning for prospective students, alumni, and families. The core of this Morris Inn welcome is not simply the hearth or the hallways. Rather, it is the identical twin sister employees, Kelly Weidner and Shelly Jackson.
Amid the fleeting moments of entering, exiting, or even passing by the Morris Inn, guests are constantly met with the sisters’ smiles. Sometimes the guests are surprised or confused at seeing the twins.
“People do the double-take and say, ‘You’re still here?’ and I say, ‘No, I am a twin,’” Shelly remarked. Kelly then jumped in, adding, “They have been coming here for years and didn’t know there were two of us. They just thought we worked all of the time.”
After the remodeling of the Morris Inn, the university was looking for employees for its valet service. Shelly convinced Kelly to apply so that they could both work the part-time gig.
“I thought it would be fun to meet some people, park cars, and get some exercise,” Kelly revealed. “It was that simple.”
The Morris Inn hospitality staff has evolved from its initial valet service into a two-fold operation: lead ambassadors who direct the driveway and traffic and indoor ambassadors who care for the guests and luggage. Kelly and Shelly, now full-time employees, preside in the doorway as lead ambassadors. Kelly welcomes guests as they depart from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Shelly takes over from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Beyond opening the gate for guests to park their car and offering directions to lost visitors, Shelly and Kelly look to assist the Notre Dame community in small ways, like offering someone an umbrella on a rainy day or giving a smile to hard-working students. Kelly and Shelly are consistently amazed by the kind gestures and positive energy of Notre Dame students, especially since Cafe J opened in 2022.
“They come in for coffee so much now and give little snippets of their life, from families to studies,” Kelly shared. “One student shouts my name when he sees me from afar and comes to give me a hug. They don’t forget me,” she said with a smile.
All employees, including Shelly and Kelly, contribute to the beauty surrounding Our Lady’s University and the way it forms all who come to campus.
“The integrity and morality is really built into its people,” Shelly said, only speaking if her younger sister missed key details. “It’s like working at Disney World but without the rides—it’s magical.”
The sisters extend an offer on behalf of the whole Morris Inn staff for students who do not find themselves at home: “Whether you are a freshman or international student who is away from family or just feels lost or sad or incomplete, come here. We tell parents this too so that they are comforted during the transition. Upperclassmen take the students in, but we are always here if they need an adult.”
The first Saint of the Congregation of Holy Cross, St. Andre Bessette, took on the humble role of doorkeeper with great humility. The hospitality and simplicity with which he performed his task enhanced countless lives, a legacy continued by the welcoming spirit of Kelly and Shelly.
Although Kelly and Shelly love their job dearly, it is not without its share of difficulties.
“We’re siblings, and have our little scruffs sometimes—Who’s the boss? Who’s telling who what to do? We work through it though,” Kelly—three minutes younger than Shelly—admitted. “And slow down. I’m praying your brakes work!”
In a busy and hustling community with cars, bikes, electric scooters, and food-delivering robots, the Morris Inn driveway can become, like many daily moments, an obstacle to navigate. The sisters offer their presence to encounter others in these otherwise hurried moments of life.
“We just want to leave a memory—a thumbprint—on the lives of those who pass through here,” they agreed.
As a senior studying Mechanical Engineering and Theology, Bryce McDonnell has likely passed by the Morris Inn over 2,000 times and has been formed by the smiles and encouragement of countless University employees. If you know any University employees who deserve a story, please reach him at email@example.com.
Photo: Kelly Weidner, left, next to her sister Shelly Jackson, right.
Photo Credit: Bryce McDonnell
Subscribe to the Irish Rover here.
Donate to the Irish Rover here.