In the past 25 years, the College has undergone an extreme makeover by doing everything from changing its name to revamping academic programs. However, one thing has remained constant. Students at the College have relied on Vicky Lee, known as Ms. Vicky, current operator of Fair Grounds in Brower Student Center, for an instant pick-me-up, whether in the form of fresh-brewed coffee or a good laugh.
Before taking over Fair Grounds, Ms. Vicky was a card swiper in the student center food court and Decker Hall when there was a dining hall in the building. She has been working at the College for the past 25 years, employed by food service companies the College used before Sodexho.
In 2005, Ms. Vicky began running Fair Grounds when Edith Hahn, previous operator of the stand, retired at the age of 90. Before that, Fair Grounds was dubbed Edith’s Place. Now, there is a framed sign propped on a shelf dedicated to Edith’s Place.
The sign describes Edith as standing at 4 feet 10 inches and “a beacon of hope, inspiration and motherly advice for thousands of friends who stopped by for a morning beverage, a snack and a friendly word.”
From this description, it seems Ms. Vicky was the perfect successor to the beloved Edith.
“I don’t just serve coffee up here. These kids are my babies.And I’m not just a Sodexho employee, I’m a ‘momma’ figure,” Ms. Vicky said.
Ms. Vicky sees her role at the College as something more than a food service worker, although she takes her job very seriously, and loves running Fair Grounds.
“I’m a neat freak,” she said, which explains why the various black milk and cream pitchers at Fair Grounds are always full and neatly lined up, labels facing outward and the countertop is always spotlessly clean.
Although Ms. Vicki has the art of serving coffee mastered, she cares about the students who visit her, and enjoys being able to offer more than just coffee.
For Joleen Ong, senior international studies major, Ms. Vicky has played a key role in her academic career at the College.
Ong, who became interested in the fair trade movement when the Library Café and Fair Grounds began serving only fair trade coffee, entered a documentary video contest sponsored by Connect with Fair Trade, a fair trade organization.
With the help of Ms. Vicky, Ong created a documentary about the movement in her hometown and at the College. Ong won the competition and will be visiting fair trade farms in Peru this month to connect with fair trade farmers. You can view her award-winning video by visiting connectwithfairtrade.org.
“If you (haven’t) noticed, Ms. Vicki has a lot of spirit and a lot of character, which made her the best interviewee for my film. But as I got to know her through passing conversations, and then deeper conversations. She really struck me as one of the most amazing people at (the College). That’s almost an understatement,” Ong said.
“I’ll make you laugh, and I always have a story to tell,” Ms. Vicky explained.
“I love Ms. Vicky. She’s so nice and it’s refreshing. . No matter what, she always has something funny or positive to say,” Josephine Cusumano, junior English major, said.
Cusumano is looking forward to the conclusion of Lent, since she gave up her favorite beverage, coffee. She has been visiting Ms. Vicky regardless, substituting her usual medium coffee for a Tazo Tea instead.
Although Ms. Vicky is always quick to strike up a conversation, provide a humorous anecdote or offer a compliment, she still believes that just serving coffee helps the students that come to her.
“I like serving this coffee if it helps you get through class. All I want you to do here is graduate, because I know it’s hell getting out of here,” Ms. Vicky said.
Although she is always proud of students who graduate from the College, she always misses her “babies,” though they often come back to visit her. She had an encounter recently with an alumnus of the College who was visiting as a recruiter at a career fair and remembered her from when she worked at Decker.
While it is undeniable that Ms. Vicky is a savior to droopy-eyed students, especially those brave enough to endure 8:30 a.m. classes, she offers more than the dosage of caffeine that many College students come to rely on to get them through rough mornings.