Until now, I had not truly realized how much a singular individual can impact a part of one’s day, a part of everyone’s day. Until now, I had not truly realized the good that resides in the rarest of places. Until now, I had not fully realized any of these things – until I met Honora.
Many of you see her almost every morning, swiping students into Harris while saying, “Thank you, honey,” or working in the back, preparing food for lunch and dinner. Almost every morning she helps to brighten my day with her polite manners and comforting disposition, and on one recent Friday morning, I took the liberty of interviewing her to find out more about her life, both outside the college and inside the dining hall.
“This was supposed to be my retirement job,” asserted Honora when I first asked her about her background. “But I came back to Connecticut College specifically because I wanted the tuition benefits for my kids for college.” For Honora, being at Connecticut College is second nature; her father was the former director of security on campus. “When my son had turned twelve years old, when it was legal to leave your child home alone, I applied here.”
She was first introduced to Dining Services by Pam Polipo, the former catering manager of Connecticut College, and took the job. Now she works to put the money she makes and the benefits she receives toward her children’s education, placing their needs above her own. She disclosed that she is a true New Londoner; she grew up in New London, previously attended Mitchell College as an English major, and later attended the New London School of Business. This marks her seventeenth year of working at the college, and she informed me that if she continues working here for three more years, she will be eligible to receive medical coverage at a cheaper rate for life. “That was my goal,” she explained, “so my husband wouldn’t have to work and we would be covered in full.”
After a wealth of background information, I asked what the best part about working here is. To put it simply, she stated, “the atmosphere is nice and I love kids.” Seeing students walking through the doors of Harris, she continued, “would be like my own son and daughter walking through and I’d want them to be treated the way I treat you guys.” She remarked that if someone were to ask her if she would be doing this forty years ago, she wouldn’t have thought so, but that her job here has truly been a blessing, especially since she has the opportunity to interact with students every day. “You guys keep me young. I love seeing you guys come in as freshmen and then when you leave, just to see the difference in you.”
Although Honora does not make any of the dishes here on campus, she told me that at home, her favorite dish to prepare is spaghetti sauce – from scratch. She also enjoys making pot roast, using her mom’s recipe. “The joke was that my father-in-law loved meat but he wasn’t a big meat eater. But when he came to my house for a meal, he and the four boys devoured a whole roast.”
I then asked Honora how the dining hall has improved and changed since she began working here. She responded by saying that the dining hall “has improved with the diversity of people, and that the quality of the students has also improved. There is less destruction and more respect for the individual.” She also said that the quality of the student life on campus has also improved and that for the most part “there is more tolerance and less prejudice.”
Next, I asked Honora if she had any interesting stories that she would be willing to share and she responded by saying, “there are so many little things nice people have done for me over the years.” When I asked her to elaborate, she ended up not being able to pick a specific moment over the seventeen years she has worked here; it seems to me that her collected time at Connecticut College has been both a blessing and an unforgettable experience. She concluded that “I have enjoyed it all, met many people that I am fond of, and had a unique experience through the interactions with everyone.”
For my last question, I wanted to know what Honora would improve or change about the campus in respect to the dining services. She stated that she hopes the dining service on campus will remain owned by the college. She then suggested that there should be another large dining hall, similar to Harris, but instead located on the south end of campus. Honora also felt that it would be better if Harris were more centralized, and that having “two larger cohesive places” on campus for students to eat would further benefit the college.
Interviewing Honora was truly a pleasure that opened my eyes to her both compassionate and humorous disposition. She is a kind woman who loves her job and puts herself before others and it is us, the students, she reminded me, who keeps her going. At the end of the interview she left me with a final piece of advice: “It shouldn’t matter what people think of you as long as you know you’re okay.”