Gladys Burrell, a cashier in the Fresh Food Café (FFC), will retire at the end of this semester after working at Hopkins for 46 years.
Known among students as “Mrs. Gladys,” Burrell’s announced retirement saddened many who have developed personal relationships with her.
Burrell said that the decision to retire was difficult for her because she grows attached to each new class of students.
“I always say I won’t get too close because when they graduate I’ll miss them, but I lie every time,” she said. “Some of the students say, ‘Why can’t you just stay here until I graduate?’ Well, if I stay here until you graduate what happens to the new set that comes in and I get attached to them? I need to go while I’m still strong.”
Burrell said that she’s seen a lot of changes in the students over the years. She noted that today they’re busier and are usually in more of a hurry. A positive change, according to Burrell, is that they don’t complain as much as they used to. She said that she remembers students protesting because they had chicken too often at the FFC.
She offered advice for current students.
“Within yourself, you’ve got to get a little more time just to slow down,” she said. “You’re going to get it done, but sometimes when you try to do too many things at one time it doesn’t work out.”
Burrell also commented on the recent Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) protests. SLAC is a coalition of students, union representatives and contract workers who are demanding that the University guarantee improved benefits for dining workers and security guards.
Burrell stressed that they are all fighting for one another.
“We’re trying to help each other because we all need each other,” she said. “Whether we want to or not, we do. At the end of the day, we’re going to need somebody.”
Freshman Kopal Bansal said that she normally sees Burrell in the mornings and asks her about how her day has been going.
“It’s nice to have that in the morning,” she said. “Just seeing her face and her smile just makes my morning better. She’s so sweet and it’s going to be sad to see her retire.”
Bansal said that she was impressed by Burrell’s ongoing commitment to her job after so many years.
“It’s just really awesome that she still has so much enthusiasm,” Bansal said. “She remembers people and remembers who you are.”
Dillan Villavisanis, a junior, said that his relationship with Burrell has developed since his freshman year. He said that she is close with the people who stop and talk to her when they see her in the FFC and mentioned that she got a birthday gift for one of his friends.
He agreed that her attitude at work reflects her enthusiasm for the job.
“She’s really invested in your success and she always brightens your day,” Villavisanis said. “It speaks volumes to her commitment and her investment in the students and just that she enjoys making a person’s day.”
He added that the effort Burrell has taken to cultivate her relationships with students made her stand out among the dining employees.
“She’s one person you can establish a relationship with,” he said. “She definitely knows who you are and is someone who’s interested in getting to know you even though there’s thousands of kids that come through the FFC.”
Freshman Sumera Yego said that Burrell made her feel welcome on campus, particularly in the beginning of the year.
“Being away from home can be challenging because there aren’t a lot of people that you feel genuinely care about you,” she said. “From day one she showed that she cared about not just me but nearly every student that I’ve seen interact with her.”
Yego said that Burrell would notice when she was upset or tired and talk with her to cheer her up. She said she wishes she’d had a chance to get to know her better but was glad to have known her this year.
“She’s very loving, she’s very affectionate, she asks about your day and it seems very meaningful,” Yego said. “I’m going to miss the warmth. There are plenty of other staff members who I know who show genuine affection, but she is definitely an outstanding person and just makes the FFC seem a little bit more welcoming.”