It’s early on a Sunday morning and students are walking sleepily into Eickhoff Dining Hall. They’re met with a warm smile and greeting that could only belong to one person – Larry Stevens.
“Good morning,” the dining hall cashier says. “How you doing today? How was your weekend?”
Standing at an impressive 6 feet 5 inches, Larry said he is known as the “Gentle Giant.” He may tower over most of the College’s students, but his friendly nature has won the love of thousands during his 15 years working here.
“Even the ones that are a little cold at the beginning, they open to me,” Larry said, explaining that he’s never had a bad experience with a student during his time working for Dining Services. “Each one of them you have to treat differently because they all have different personalities. Some you can be more friendly with. Others you have to draw out to you.”
An area resident his entire life – he grew up in Trenton and now lives in Ewing Township – Larry decided to work at the College because it was close to home. He had no worries about working with College students; in fact he looked forward to it.
“I’m a people person and I love working with the (students),” Larry, who worked as a greeter in Eickhoff before the Carte Blanche system came into effect, said. “To me, it’s a pleasure. These kids are away from home and they need a family figure.”
Having two children and four grandchildren himself, Larry said he likes to treat students the way he would want people to treat his family.
“I’m like a guidance counselor,” he said. “I want (the students) to talk to me about anything – and most of them do. I know a lot about their lives, believe me.”
When students are having a hard time with classes, Larry said he tells them that as long as they’re doing their best, that’s all that counts. He makes sure to ask athletes about their games and wish them good luck.
Even though he probably knows more students than he can keep track of, Larry tries to greet as many as he can remember by name.
“Everybody should feel important when they walk through this door because without these students, I wouldn’t have a job,” Larry said, comparing what he does to having a bartender start making your favorite drink as soon as you walk in the door.
Larry admits that a lot of people probably wouldn’t be happy with his job since it involves so much interaction, but he thinks he was made for it.
“If I’m home and my girlfriend is not there, I go out to find someone to talk to,” Larry said. “That’s the way I was born, I guess. I just love dealing with people.”
And the students love dealing with him. An avid Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers fan, Larry said he’s used to getting heckled when his favorite teams lose. He’s also happy when students bring their parents in to meet him when they come visit.
More than anything though, Larry loves when students graduate and come back to share their success stories with him. He recently got visits from two former students now working as a state trooper and a high school physics teacher, respectively.
“When they come back and talk about their success … it makes me proud and they took the time to come back and see me,” Larry said.
It could be that Larry feels the same pride that parents experience, and that would make sense considering the love he feels for students.
“All the (students) at the College are my children,” he said with a laugh. “So I got a lot of children, right?”
Asked how he feels being one of the most beloved figures on campus, Larry can’t help but smile.
“I feel great,” Larry said. “It’s great to be loved by strangers. Your family you expect to love you, but not strangers.”
Although he wants students to enjoy their time at the College, Larry also wants to make sure they take advantage of their time here.
“It’s all right to have fun, but you’re here to get an education,” Larry said. “In this day and time you can be anything you want to, so strive for your highest.”